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The first matchup of the Divisional Playoff Round features a Cincinnati Bengals team that has rebuilt itself faster than most outsiders expected, with much of the thanks for that going to QB Joe Burrow and WR Ja’Marr Chase, a productive pair that got their start back at LSU and who are tearing up the league while the Bengals 5th ranked run defense prepares to face the Titans.
The good news for the Tennessee Titans is that Derrick Henry is back, the playmaking RB they lost to a foot injury earlier in the season, but the better news is that HC Mike Vrabel had an entire playoff bye week to work Henry into the game plan, so now QB Ryan Tannehill has plenty of ways to hurt the Bengals including deep threat WRs Julio Jones and A.J. Brown.
These two AFC rivals have faced each other 76 prior times (including 1 postseason game), with the Tennessee Titans winning 40 of those games and the Cincinnati Bengals winning 35 of the games, plus there has been one tie.
Back in the ’80s, the Cincinnati Bengals won two Divisional Playoff games and eventually went to (and lost) the Super Bowl both times, so now QB Joe Burrow and company hope to do what Boomer Esiason and Ken Anderson could not do which is to get their city a Lombardi Trophy.
First things first, and that is to take care of these Titans, a win that would be just the second playoff win (including last week’s victory over the Raiders) since the 1990 season when the Bengal beat the Houston Oilers, 41-14.
Point is, it’s been a while for this football franchise, so who knows what type of winning attitude they bring to this one against the first seeded Titans who lost in last year’s Wildcard round, a fun AFC battle that should be a high scorer given both team’s ability to find the end zone often.
Last year’s League Rushing Leader Derrick Henry was on his way to another fantastic season when a foot injury took him out for half the year, but now he has had his surgery, fully rehabbed the foot, and has been given the okay by team doctors to return to play in the postseason.
The Titans have the fifth most productive run game this year, much of those yards earned without Henry, so Tennessee has a rushing attack that is working, so it could be tricky to blend Henry back into that given how many caries he typically takes.
Fortunately for HC Mike Vrabel’s Titans, they have had a first-week playoff bye due their number one seed postseason ranking, so they have had plenty of time to work Henry back into their rushing game plan, assuming his newly healed foot can stand the load.
Last offseason, the Bengals front office had a choice to make, either use their first-round pick to select a much-needed offensive lineman to better protect their valuable QB Joe Burrow, or grab deep threat receiver Ja’Marr Chase who played and excelled with Burrow back at LSU.
Fortunately for Bengals fans, GM Mike Brown took Chase (5th selection overall), and that draft pick has been paying off dividends this entire season, the young WR having a breakout rookie season so far with 81 receptions for 1,455 yards and 13 TDs, ranked the second WR in the league.
That is a whole lot of production for an NFL newbie, especially one that was supposedly having drop issues in the offseason, but now Chase and Burrow are making defenses scramble and double team him as a target which frees up the rest of the field for Tee Higgins and CJ Uzomah.
For ten seasons WR Julio Jones played with the team who drafted him – the Atlanta Falcons – but this, his eleventh NFL year, he has caught passes for the Titans, he and QB Ryan Tannehill beginning to find a solid connection together as Jones tries to stay healthy and on the field.
Now back from a hamstring issue that had him on the IR since November, Jones is ready to add his part to the Titans passing attack, the veteran with seven 1,000+ receiving yard seasons in his career, though this injury-shortened year he has just 31 catches for 434 yards and a TD.
The Titans brought Jones in as a deep threat who would draw defensive attention away from the other Tennessee receivers, so with him back and healthy expect that to affect the entire offense, his partner A.J. Brown equally scaring down the field.
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|Bengals vs Titans Information
|Cincinnati Bengals vs Tennessee Titans
|Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee
|Sunday, January 23, 2022; 4:30 PM ET
|How to watch
Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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