Titans vs Bengals: Divisonal Round Betting Preview

Jan 18- 11 min read

How to Bet Titans vs Bengals

AFC Divisional Round

Cincinnati Bengals @ Tennessee TItans -3.5 | O/U 47

Saturday January 22nd @ 4:30pm EST

Nissan Stadium – Nashville, TN

The Divisional Round Weekend kicks off in Nashville! Not only do we get to see the hottest quarterback in the NFL in Joe Burrow, we’ll also see the return of the NFL’s best rusher in Derrick Henry. It is likely the most underrated matchup of the weekend but when the odds come out I may bet this to be the highest scoring game of the weekend. We’ll see if the value is there.

Let’s start with the Cincinnati Bengals. At the time of writing, it’s very early in the week, but the Bengals were dealt a major blow to their defensive line in the Wild Card Round. Arguably the team’s best defensive player, Trey Hendrickson, went down with a concussion. Not to mention Mike Daniels sustained a groin injury and the Bengals lost Larry Ogunjobi for the remainder of the season to a foot injury. Hendrickson and Ogunjobi played the most snaps on the team behind Sam Hubbard.

The Titans have the benefit of a bye through the Wild Card Round thanks to the 1-seed in the AFC. Head coach Mike Vrabel is the odds-on favorite to win the NFL Coach of the Year. The Titans battled plenty of adversity this season, being one of the most injured teams in NFL history. They’re getting healthy at the right time though as AJ Brown has looked fantastic since his return and Derrick Henry is the focal point of this offense.

Titans star running back Derrick Henry cleared to return to practice

The Titans Need Derrick Henry

Mike Vrabel’s offensive attack is heavily reliant on his running back, you can see the impact that Henry’s absence has had when you look at Ryan Tannehill’s season stat line. His numbers were down pretty much across the board, he had the most interceptions since his 2nd season and his yards per attempt was his lowest since 2016. Even when Henry doesn’t have the ball, he helps this offense be more successful.

The Titans tried to make their same offensive attack work without Henry with mixed results. The Adrian Peterson experiment did not work out but D’onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard stepped in and were able to play at a replacement level. The Titans finished the season averaging 32.4 rushing attempts per game, the most in the NFL. The offense won’t need to make major adjustments for Henry’s return but it should significantly improve it’s efficiency.

The injuries that the Bengals are dealing with in their front-4 could play a major factor in the Titans success. Cincinnati is 20th in opponent yards per rushing attempt this season and 23rd in defensive power success rate. 71% of opponent runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, achieved a first down or touchdown. The Titans offense meanwhile, is the #1 team in power success rate, even while playing half the season without Derrick Henry.

Even with a healthy front-4 this Titans team will be a lot for the Bengals to handle. But Trey Hendrickson is the straw that stirs the drink for this Bengals defense. If he’s good to go, they’ll be able to take advantage of the Titans weak pass protection that ranks 26th in sack rate this season. But getting them into passing downs is going to be very difficult against the Titans offensive scheme.

Bengals QB Joe Burrow out of hospital after being evaluated for throat contusion

Can the Titans Stop Burrow?

Joe Burrow and the Bengals deploy one of the NFL’s best passing offenses. Burrow is averaging 8.8 yards per attempt and a 70.4% completion percentage, both ranking 1st in the league. With Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins to throw to the offense is averaging 27.0 points per game this season.

Burrow has been dealing with an offensive line that is amongst the worst in the NFL in pass protection. They’re allowing a sack rate of 8.8%, which is 31st in the NFL. Burrow has adapted and thrived under pressure though, he’s got the 2nd highest completion percentage and yards per attempt along with 10 touchdowns under pressure this season.

The Titans defense has taken significant strides this season, they’re a top-10 defense in DVOA in 2021. The addition of Denico Autry and the career season from Jeffery Simmons played a major role in that. The Titans went from 28th in sack rate in 2020 to a top-12 unit this season. They’re also giving up just 3.9 yards per carry on the ground.

Much like the Raiders, who blitzed just twice in the Wild Card Round, the Titans don’t like to blitz very often to generate pressure. They blitz on just 19.9% of plays, the 5th lowest rate in the NFL. They’ll trust the front-4 to take advantage of the Bengals poor pass protection and get numbers in coverage. I’d expect to see Kristian Fulton in coverage with Ja’Marr Chase as well. Fulton gave up just 30 catches on 62 targets and 11 pass breakups.

Titans activate WR A.J. Brown (chest) from injured reserve ahead of 'TNF' vs. 49ers

How to Bet This Game

Titans -3.5

* Stay tuned for player props once lines open

I really like how this Titans team matches up with the Bengals here. Cincinnati managed to get away with a poor performance in the red zone last week, they kicked 3 field goals inside the 20-yard line. The Titans are 4th in opponent touchdown rate inside the red zone this season. If the Bengals leave points off the board it’ll be an uphill battle.

The return of Derrick Henry is what really puts this over the top for me. The Bengals haven’t been great against the run against a mediocre schedule and as a result Henry should see at least 25+ carries. The Titans should dominate time of possession and convert at a high level on third down thanks to the Bengals poor defensive power success rate.

 

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