By Kelly Reed
Cincinnati Bengals vs Tennessee Titans
Saturday – January 22 – 3:30 p.m.
Nissan Stadium – Nashville, TN
Records Before the Kick
Cincinnati Bengals (10-7, 5-3 Away)
Tennessee Titans (12-5, 7-2 Home)
The NFL’s “Super” Wild Card Weekend has been deemed a success in the eyes of NFL fans and viewers. The Bengals who got the party started last Saturday is first up again for the divisional round of games this weekend. The meme about no one ever texting about a Bengals playoff win is no longer relevant. The Bengals won their home playoff game after 31 years of frustration last week. Now they have their eyes set on the AFC title game. The Tennessee Titans survived a bye week and with that is the return of King Henry. Yes, Derrick Henry who missed the last nine games of the Titans regular season is ready to let his gridiron talents talk (I’m counting on it!). The Titans playing at home will be rested and will have home field advantage. Let’s take a look at what each team brings to this contest!
The Bengals will definitely be bringing momentum into this game. They won their first playoff game in over three decades and they believe they have the tools to go to the Super Bowl. QB Joe Burrow brings his accuracy and cool demeanor to the offense. They’ll open it up for this one against a solid Titans defense. Burrow will have most of his regular weapons at his disposal such as Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and go-to receiver Ja’Marr Chase. These receivers know how to get open and will be a thorn in the Titans side throughout the game. In last week’s game, TE C.J. Uzomah came up huge with his touchdown. The Titans will have eyes on him for sure but he should still haul in some important catches for first downs and a possible touchdown. The run game will be challenged by the Titans linebacking corps. Joe Mixon will get the bulk of the carries and do a lot of the dirty work. Backup Samaje Perine has to be the guy to pick up the slack in this one. If he does and Chase gets on track, the Bengals could be one step closer to the Super Bowl.
The Titans are healthy and ready to go after the bye. They’ll need to withstand the excitement and energy that the Bengals will bring. I think Derrick Henry brings confidence back to the team. The Titans know that the heart and soul of their team has returned. He’s been increasing his reps at practice this week. We’ll know by Friday evening if he’s available for Saturday. If Henry is put back on the shelf for another week (I doubt) then that means that QB Ryan Tannehill will have to shoulder the load and have running backs D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard deliver the ground game. The Bengals defense will take away the run and force Tannehill to beat them with arm. Tannehill is a fierce competitor who will look to WRs A.J. Brown and Julio Jones to be game breakers. Everyone knows the potential Jones has. He can take over a game and force defenses to try to contain him. Brown has been the more consistent of the two wideouts this season as far as production is concerned. TE Geoff Swaim has been serviceable this season hauling in three or four passes per game but it appears that Anthony Firkser is the up-and-comer. Perhaps he has better rapport with Tannehill. The Titans defense is a good one but their secondary is vulnerable to pass interference calls. The Bengals will try to exploit this throughout the game with Chase and Higgins on the prowl.
The consistent ground-and-pound of the Titans run game versus the aerial assault of the Bengals. The offensive coordinators are going to take their shots at the opposing defense. The over/under is 47.5 and the Titans are giving up 3.5 in this contest. I’m going to go with controlling the clock and the potential return of King Henry to win the game. Take the over while you’re at it. Bengals should cover the spread.
Titans – 30
Bengals – 27