Two to watch: These players will be key to determining the AFC Championship

Posted at 2:44 AM, Jan 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-19 02:44:37-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One set an NFL regular season record at tight end with four-straight seasons of 1,000 receiving yards, the other just a set a postseason record for most rushing yards in his first four games. Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce and Tennessee running back Derrick Henry have been instrumental in their teams' success, and both will play crucial roles in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.

Record-setting Kelce:

Kelce shook off an early third down drop to help the Chiefs climb out of a 24-0 hole in the divisional round against the Houston Texans. Following a historic regular season, he again set a record, becoming the first player in NFL postseason history to catch three touchdowns in one quarter. He finished the day with 10 catches for 134 yards, spurring the Chiefs to a rousing 51-31 comeback win. He's among the most difficult matchups in football, and has Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel's attention as the Titans craft a game plan against an explosive offense.

"He’s athletic, I think he’s instinctive. I talked about it the other day, his routes don’t look like anybody else's routes. I mean, the route is to get open at whatever depth the quarterback wants. He can freeze guys, and then burst across the field. He’s got great catch radius. I mean, he’s tall, he’s long, he’s athletic, he’s tough, and it’s a tough challenge. It’s hard. He runs double moves, he runs routes like a receiver, plays well at the top of the route, plays with good play strength," Vrabel said.

In the first meeting between these teams this season, Kelce had seven catches for 75 yards and one touchdown. Look for him to see a steady diet of targets from quarterback Patrick Mahomes; he's had seven or more in 16 of the Chiefs 18 games. In three games against the Titans, he's averaged at least four receptions and 55 yards receiving.

Fast, physical Derrick Henry:

The Titans went on a roll after beating the Chiefs in Week 10, and Henry is a major reason they've won seven of their last eight, sweeping past higher seeded playoff teams New England and Baltimore en route to the showdown at Arrowhead.

Henry is the NFL's leading rusher this season with 1,540 yards, and an absolute load to tackle at 6'3" and 247 pounds. His 561 yards in his first four playoff games eclipsed the previous record of 515 held by Denver's Terrell Davis. He abused the Patriots and Ravens, rushing for 182 yards against New England and 195 yards against Baltimore.

He scored twice and rushed for 188 yards against the Chiefs in a 35-32 win, and will have the defense's attention every play.

"He brings it every snap. He's a big fella that can really move. Did it in college. Does it now. Has a good offensive line and good receivers," Kansas City coach Andy Reid said.

During a media session on Wednesday, Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said they're expecting Henry to get the ball, even if the Titans fall behind. He added that Henry gets better as the game stretches into the second half, which may become a key if the score is close and Tennessee tries to play keep away from the Kansas City offense.