Chiefs, Titans look to end playoff skids

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By DAVE SKRETTA, The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland was in swaddling blankets the previous time Kansas City won a home playoff game.

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill was nestled comfortably in the womb.

It was January 1994, Joe Montana was the quarterback and the Chiefs beat the Steelers on an overtime field goal by Nick Lowery to advance.

And it’s hard to believe anybody packed inside Arrowhead Stadium that day imagined a quarter century would pass without another home playoff win.

“It would be nice to break that,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said, “but you can’t add any extra motivation once you get to this stage. This is all the work we’ve been putting in as this team from day one — this team. When we were putting in our goals and talking about that.

“It’s tough to add any more motivation with historic streaks or things like that.”

Besides, the Titans (9-7) are trying to end their own maddening stretch of playoff futility.

Tennessee rumbles into Kansas City for the wild-card round today in its first postseason trip since 2008, when the Titans were the AFC’s top seed.

If they can waltz out with a win, as they did in 2016, it would be their first playoff victory since January 2004.

“It’s playoff time,” Titans safety Kevin Byard said. “I dream about … matchups, about going up against guys like (Travis) Kelce and going up against Andy Reid, a Hall of Fame-level coach. He’s a great coach. And going into Arrowhead Stadium, one of the louder stadiums, I don’t think there’s better you can ask for in the first week of the playoffs.”

Indeed, there are story lines galore in a game that could be overshadowed by higher-profile matchups, or perhaps overlooked because of the Chiefs’ midseason swoon and the Titans’ late-season slump.

Smith is trying to validate the best season of his career in what could be his final game for the Chiefs (10-6). Hill is hoping to show off his world-class speed on a national stage.

And running back Kareem Hunt, who won the NFL rushing title this season, will have a chance to etch his name alongside the likes of Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell as one of the league’s best.

“If you lose, you go home,” Hunt said simply. “Everybody is giving their all not to go home.”

On the flip side, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will try to rewrite the story of an up-and-down season with his playoff debut. Running back Derrick Henry and his supporting cast will help. And embattled coach Mike Mularkey will try to prove he was the right man for the job all along.

“The intensity and everything goes up when you get to this point,” Mularkey said.

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NFL PLAYOFFS

All times HST

WILD-CARD ROUND

Today’s Games

Tennessee at Kansas City, 11:35 a.m. (ESPN/ABC)

Atlanta at L.A. Rams, 3:15 p.m. (NBC)

Sunday’s Games

Buffalo at Jacksonville, 8:05 a.m. (CBS)

Carolina at New Orleans, 11:40 a.m. (FOX)

DIVISIONAL ROUND

Saturday, Jan. 13

New Orleans/Carolina/Atlanta at Philadelphia, 11:35 a.m. (NBC)

Kansas City/Tennessee/Buffalo at New England, 3:15 p.m. (CBS)

Sunday, Jan. 14

Jacksonville/Kansas City/Tennessee at Pittsburgh, 8:05 a.m. (CBS)

L.A. Rams/New Orleans/Carolina at Minnesota, 11:40 a.m. (FOX)