Cincinnati Bengals vs Tennessee Titans: Divisional Round Preview
AFC Divisional Round Schedule
Cincinnati Bengals (4) @ Tennessee Titans (1)
- 4.30pm ET, Saturday Jan 22, CBS
- Opening spread: Titans -3
- Opening moneyline: Bengals +130, Titans -150
Observations: Cincinnati may be the lowest seed left in the AFC but underestimate them at your peril. The relationship between quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has elevated to new heights, despite their formidable defensive line the Raiders were unable to contain them. On Saturday’s 26-19 victory Chase had five receptions that went at least 10 yards over the line of scrimmage which was enough to hold off the Raiders despite the loss of key defensive stars Trey Hendrickson (DE) and Larry Ogunjobi (DT) during the matchup.
It was quite clear their presence was missed as the Raiders nearly rallied from a double digit deficit in the 3rd quarter to hand the Bengals another playoff heartbreak. The health of their two defensive stars, or Cincinnati's ability to effectively fill those boots will be a key storyline if the Bengals are to hold the Titans run game and win.
The Titans are on track to get star running back Derrick Henry back, he hasn’t played any football since breaking his foot in Week 8. One can forgive the Titans for being excited about his imminent return, but how much he can impact this game remains to be seen.
One thing we learnt about the regular season Titans is that they are resilient: they were 6-2 when they lost Henry and went 6-3 the rest of the way despite many pundits projecting them to falter down the stretch. Admittedly seven of those wins came by one score and their average margin of victory (3.8 points) was the lowest of any division winner. This highlights the turnaround made by the Titans defense mid-season: it went from allowing 384 yards and 26.8 points per game in the first six weeks, to just 300.3 yards and 17.5 points per game over its final 11 matches.
Key matchups: Burrow & Chase have looked as good as any QB-WR partnership in the NFL, and they get to go against the Titans who have a bottom-10 pass defense. They are locked in at the moment and have the ability to take over a game, their connection is the most direct way for the Bengals to pull off an upset. Ja’Marr Chase finished with one of the biggest postseason receiving performances by a rookie in the Super Bowl era, with nine catches for 116 yards. The nine catches are tied for fourth most and the 116 yards rank 11th. That’s the combination to watch considering running back Joe Mixon might have some difficulty with one of the league's tougher run defenses.