AFC Divisional Round Preview: Bengals vs. Titans
The NFL Divisional round kicks off this weekend with one of the most highly anticipated games on the slate: the Tennessee Titans host the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals roll into the Music City fresh off a close Wild Card game that saw them defeat the Las Vegas Raiders and break their 31-year streak winless streak in the playoffs.
Bengals quarterback, Joe Burrow, has been having a breakout season just one year after his season-ending injury. Burrow will have more than plenty of targets when he looks downfield on Saturday, the most notable of them being Ja’Marr Chase, who has been having a stellar rookie season.
Burrow and Chase, both of whom attended LSU, seem to have one of, if not the best, wide receiver and quarterback connections in the NFL.
In the backfield, Burrow will have Joe Mixon, the Oklahoma graduate, to aid him in sustaining drives and getting down the field. However, Mixon’s performance last week was somewhat disappointing when he only rushed for 48 yards on 17 carries.
Look for the Bengals passing attack to dominate their offensive game plan once again as they have developed a great deal of confidence in their quarterback.
Defensively, the Bengals have to prepare for the worst-case scenario: Derrick Henry returning and putting up his usual numbers. While this is unlikely to happen, the Bengals should still prepare for it. A.J. Brown will need to be the main focus for the Bengals passing defense.
Brown is Tannehill’s main target and will undoubtedly see most of the passes go his on Saturday. If they can lock down Brown, life will be very difficult for that Titans offense.
The Titans have been dominating the league news as of late for one main reason: Derrick Henry. The return of King Henry seems imminent this weekend and will undoubtedly have a great effect on the outcome of this game.
The Titans, who are the number one seeded AFC team in this year’s playoffs, are coming fresh off of their bye week and will be well-rested for their matchup against the red-hot Bengals. Henry, as mentioned earlier, could quite possibly be the deciding factor of this game.
Henry has participated in practice with contact this past week, showing that he is closer to being able to play on Saturday. If he plays, the main question will be how recovered he’ll be from the foot fracture he sustained in Week 8.
Also, don’t expect the usual high-energy runs most are used to seeing when he’s on the field. Look for him to get a few carries early on in the game which, depending on how he performs, could be gradually increased.
While Henry may be activated to play, D’Onta Foreman will more than likely still get the bulk of the rushing load for the Titans. Ryan Tannehill, with two big targets on the field, should be able to make up for any loss in the rushing game as he’s done all season.
AJ Brown has established himself as the WR1 this season for the Titans and will need to be able to get open downfield for Tannehill to get some big plays going and to sustain drives.
Defensively, the LSU connection with Borrow and Chase is going to need to be severed by the Titan’s defense. If they can get to Burrow and throw him off his game, he’s going to have a very hard time finding Ja’Marr Chase, or any receiver for that matter, downfield.
As a younger quarterback, Burrow will be easier to get out of his zone by a defense that can put pressure on him throughout the game.
This game is one that no one’s going to want to miss as both of these teams are evenly matched and have a very real shot at moving on.
Ethan Ellis is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ethan Ellis is a first year student at Penn State University. He is from the small town of Rocky Mount in the southern part of Virginia. He is currently majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in sports studies and is work towards becoming and sports announcer for ESPN.