With a 26-19 win against the Raiders last week, the Cincinatti Bengals secured their spot in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, while the Titans watched from home since they were rewarded with a first-round bye for being the tops-seed in the AFC.
The Titans are no joke, and with Derrick Henry coming back the task of beating them becomes even more difficult. But the Bengals have been tasked with knocking them out of the playoffs, and here are three things that they will have to do to be able to accomplish that.
Stop Derrick Henry from taking over
This is a task easier said than done as Henry was on his way to becoming the NFL’s leading rusher before going down in week 8 with a broken foot and hasn’t seen game time since. However, he was so dominant in that eight-game stretch that he was able to finish the season still in the top 10 in rushing yards.
When the Titans have Henry available, they like to have the game run through him and set the tempo early. In fact, Henry only has two games this season where he carried the ball less than 28 times.
The good news for the Bengals is that they already can see how the Titans run their offense so they will be more prepared to stop him.
Keep AJ Brown in check
Brown has been by far the most targeted receiver for Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill with 105 and the next-closest Titan having just 57.
The Titans don’t throw the ball often when Derrick Henry plays, but it seems that when they do, Brown is their go-to guy.
It will be a tall task for the Bengals to accomplish, given that they rank 27th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, but since the Titans already don’t have a good passing offense or a quarterback that can take over a game so making sure that Brown is shut down will do wonders for the Bengals both offensively and defensively.
Pull back on big plays offensively
It’s no surprise that Joe Burrow and Jamarr Chase are one of the best quarterback-receiver duos in the NFL, and they like to connect on specifically one route a lot even going back to their time together at LSU: the streak route. This route has done wonders for the duo in the past, but if I am Zac Taylor, I am telling them to drive down the field slowly and methodically.
Big plays could ultimately hurt the Bengals on the defensive side of the ball.
Imagine this: you are a defensive player who just came off the field after Derrick Henry and the Titans ran a 13-play 75-yard drive. You go to get on the bench and get some oxygen just to see Burrow connect with a receiver on a 50-yard touchdown pass three plays later.
This doesn’t give you enough time to recover from the previous drive and the Titans come back out presumably giving the ball to Henry on another long drive. This will wear a defense down physically and will not lead to successful results on the defensive side of the ball.