NFL Divisional Round Picks: 3 Keys for Bengals to Upset Titans

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Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

The NFL Divisional Round is underway, and any remaining AFC team has what it takes to reach the Super Bowl. The Bengals are looking for an upset win over the Titans. 

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tennessee Titans

Saturday, January 22, 2022 – 04:30 PM EST at Nissan Stadium

The Titans finished as the top overall seed in the AFC despite losing Derrick Henry for most of the season. They now hope to bring him back against the Bengals, adding another weapon for Cincinnati to stop. 

The Bengals are peaking at the right time with Joe Burrow under center. Ja’Marr Chase is one of the best young receivers in the NFL, and the run game has been hard to stop. The Bengals have overachieved this year, but will their hot streak continue against the Titans?

Most sportsbooks favor Tennessee by 3, but the Bengals have overcome worse odds before. What will it take for Cincinnati to make it to the AFC Championship? Here are three keys for an upset.

Stay Strong Up Front Defensively

The defensive front is a weak spot for the Bengals, but they will need an elite game against Tennessee. The Titans like to run the ball early to wear down a defense before torching them late. They were able to do this despite losing Henry for half of the year, so his return gives them more weapons. 

The Bengals need to find a way to stay strong in the front seven. If they get worn down by a rested Derrick Henry, they will lose this game in the fourth quarter. This is how Tennessee has beaten other AFC Playoff teams in the past, and it lines up well against the Bengals front. 

If this means that Cincinnati has to sell out on the run, then so be it. You can’t let Derrick Henry beat you. Tannehill may make some plays in the play-action passing game, but the real threat is between the tackles with the best running back in the NFL. 

This also assumes that Henry is fully healthy. If he is slow to start, then the Bengals can commit to the passing game. However, an 80% Derrick Henry is still one of the best backs in the AFC. 

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Take Deep Shots on Offense

Some teams like to beat an opponent at their own game. With the way Cincinnati’s offensive line has played so far this year, this won’t be a recipe for success. Joe Burrow has bailed out the Bengals all year with deep shots, and he’ll need a few chunk plays on the road against the Titans. 

Joe Burrow is also sacked more than any quarterback in the NFL. The chunk plays take time to develop, and Cincinnati will need to get creative with coverage. They may need to keep Joe Mixon is as a blocker or chip with tight ends. Either way, Burrow can make the play if he is kept upright. 

Deep plays can help a struggling team overcome a lot of errors. The Bengals haven’t struggled in recent games, but things could get ugly against the Titans. In a cold environment on the road with an AFC Championship appearance on the line, the Titans have the upper hand. These plays will keep the Bengals in this one until the fourth quarter.

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Avoid the Major Mistakes

The Bengals won their first playoff game since texting was invented last week. That is great, but the fact remains that this team remains inexperienced in the postseason. That didn’t matter against the Raiders, but the Titans will be a different story. 

Tennessee made it to the AFC Championship two years ago. They earned the top seed in the AFC for a reason. Now that they are as healthy as they have been all year, they know how to overcome adversity and capitalize on mistakes. 

In his second postseason start, Joe Burrow needs to be perfect. He has to take risks without causing turnovers. The defense has to avoid too many major plays by A.J. Brown or Derrick Henry. If a mental error happens on either side of the ball, the Titans will be ready to take advantage.

This truly is anyone’s game. If you choose to bet the Bengals moneyline with your NFL picks, look at these focal points as you watch the game.