The Divisional Round of the playoffs gets underway on Saturday afternoon, with the Tennessee Titans hosting the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals won when these teams met last year, although the home team has won the last three games in this series. For Saturday, the Titans are listed as 3.5-point home favorites, with the over/under set at 47.5 points.
After earning the top overall seed in the AFC and a bye, this will be Tennessee’s first playoff game since a home loss to the Ravens last year. However, the Titans are 2-2 in the playoffs under Mike Vrabel. They also head to the playoffs on a three-game winning streak.
As for the Bengals, they’ve won four of their last five games, including a playoff win last week against the Raiders. This is also the deepest Cincinnati has been in the postseason since the 1990 season. The Bengals are also without a road playoff win in franchise history.
The Main Man
Given everything else he’s done during his two seasons in Cincinnati, Joe Burrow might be the one to lead the Bengals to their first-ever road playoff win. He looked sharp last week against the Raiders, throwing two touchdown passes and only getting sacked twice despite playing behind a problematic offensive line. However, the caveat is what the Bengals can expect from their offensive line and running back Joe Mixon, who’s been held under 60 yards in five of his last six games.
The Cincinnati defense also enters this game with some questions after giving up nearly 400 yards against the Raiders last week. They also won’t have the home crowd to give them a lift this week or benefit from playing a limited Las Vegas offense. The good news is that sack leader Trey Hendrickson has been cleared to play, meaning a strong Cincy defensive line will be at full strength.
The Ultimate X-Factor
Things look like they’re trending in the direction of Derrick Henry being able to play on Saturday, which would be big news for one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL. While the Titans survived without him during the second half of the season, Henry is a potential game-changer for the Tennessee offense. While Ryan Tannehill finished the regular season strong, he had some ups and downs this year, including 14 interceptions in 17 games, so he could use all of the help he can get.
The good news for the Titans is they have a top-10 defense that started to come around late in the season. The Titans allowed less than 20 points in four of their last five games and should be healthy and refreshed after the week off. A year ago, the Tennessee defense was plagued by a lack of pass-rushing threats, but Harold Landry and Jeffery Simmons have helped to change that while Kevin Byard is a Pro Bowl safety.
First Time for Everything
The Bengals are looking like a confident team after last week’s win and will carry plenty of momentum in Nashville with them. There’s also an argument to be made that Cincinnati has the better quarterback in this game.
While Henry has a chance to change things, the Bengals look like a team that can pull off a road win or at least beat the 3.5-point spread.
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