What will happen tomorrow in the Cincinnati Bengals’ biggest game of the year? Will Cincinnati pull off the upset and go to the AFC Championship? Or will the Tennessee Titans pound the rock and ugly their way to their second deep playoff run in the last three years?
Well, if you’re into predictions, we have your fix right here. Below you will find ten predictions from Cincy Jungle writers. But first, let’s see what other media outlets are saying:
Pete Prisco, CBS: The Titans had last week off, and they should have Derrick Henry back running the football. That will be a challenge for the Bengals run defense, which allowed 4.4 per rush this season and has several key players on their front banged up — WITH defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi out. That, as usual, will mean a heavy dose of Henry and the other Titans backs. The Bengals have an explosive pass offense, but it will be up to the offensive line to hold up in front of Joe Burrow. The Titans were 25th against the pass this year, but they were seventh in sacks with 47. The protection will be key for Burrow. That line was solid last week, but this is another tough challenge. They have to keep the inside pressure off Burrow. If they can, he will have success throwing it. This will be Burrow’s first road playoff game, which will be a challenge. But I think he will be up to it. He will play well. The problem is the Titans will play better. Henry and the run game key the Titans to the title game. Titans 27, Bengals 20
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: The Titans are healthier right now than they were during the regular season, and I’m expecting them to play one of their best games and remind everyone that the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC goes through Tennessee. Titans 27, Bengals 20
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Derrick Henry makes a huge difference for a team that went 6-3 without him. The Cincinnati offense lacked the killer instinct on Saturday against the Raiders, allowing Las Vegas to hang around for far too long. While the Bengals may indeed be a Super Bowl contender in 2022, it feels like they’ve reached the end of the road. The Titans, in contrast, are just getting started. Titans 24, Bengals 17
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Being worse in the trenches is a big mountain to climb when the coaching matchup favors the Titans, too. I trust Mike Vrabel and Co. to stay one step ahead because they’ve been in the playoffs before, and they know running the same old game plan won’t work. They’ll have something special for this week, and I’m not as confident Zac Taylor can adjust. Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase are great enough to possibly overcome it all, but that’s asking too much of such young players. Titans 29, Bengals 23
Bill Bender, Sporting News: It comes down to the [Joe] Burrow-[Ja’Marr] Chase connection for Cincinnati on offense and whether Trey Hendrickson (concussion) will be available on defense. Burrow showed last week that the moment wasn’t too much for him. Tennessee won’t be easy, and Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor will have to pick his spots to be aggressive. This comes down to the emerging star in Burrow. He does it again with a late-TD pass to Tyler Boyd that sends the Bengals to their first AFC championship game since 1988. Bengals 27, Titans 24
Meanwhile, only three of ESPN’s “NFL Experts” predicted the Bengals to win.
Okay, now let’s get to the real picks, those made by our staff here at Cincy Jungle:
Ethan DeWitt: This will come down to how key matchups play out. One of the main matchups to watch will be on the outside with Ja’Marr Chase facing a Tennessee secondary that has been up-and-down this season. Meanwhile, we don’t know how effective Derrick Henry will be in his return, though he gets to face a banged-up Cincinnati d-line. The pressure applied by Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard on Ryan Tannehill will be crucial. I predict that the injuries up front to the Bengals’ d-line will be too much. Even if Henry, who gained 937 yards in just eight games, is at 75%, that is better than most running backs in the NFL. Add in a healthy A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, and I think Tennessee’s offense will be a bit too much for Cincinnati to handle. Titans 28, Bengals 24
John Sheeran: Tennessee’s receiving corps isn’t getting enough credit, and they might be the difference in this game if Cincinnati can’t get home to Tannehill. This game is destined to be close, and the closest of scores makes sense to me. Tennessee 21, Cincinnati 20
Jason Marcum: After getting the playoff monkey off their back, the Bengals should play a little looser this week against a very vulnerable Titans team. Like most of Cincinnati’s games, this one will be largely decided by how well the offensive line plays against a Titans defense that finished 10th in sacks despite not having Bud Dupree for six games. Dupree, of course, gave the Bengals fits as a Pittsburgh Steeler until tearing his ACL last season. Now that the Kentucky product is getting back to form, he will be looking to wreak havoc on the Bengals’ patchwork offensive line. The Titans offense, meanwhile, will pound the rock now that Henry is back and bolstered by two quality backup options in D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard. Titans 27, Bengals 23
Drew Garrison: The return of King Henry will dictate the pace of this game. Both teams struggle in pass protection, so the team that wins the line of scrimmage may win the game. Bengals will jump out to an early lead and force Tannehill to play catch up. The game will then become close, but ultimately Joe Burrow and company sneak out of Nashville with a win. Bengals 27, Titans 24
Dadio Makdook: The Titans will try to force the Bengals to play their style of (slow-paced) football. Henry will play, but he won’t get enough carries or momentum to keep Cincinnati’s offense off the field. Eventually, Chase and Tee Higgins will break free. Tannehill, meanwhile, will struggle to get the Titans in position to win late in the game. Cincinnati 28, Tennessee 24
John Acree: With the return of Hendrickson and Josh Tupou, the Bengals now have all the pieces they will need to pull off the upset against the Titans. Burrow and Tee Higgins will combine for a pair of scores as Cincinnati advances to the AFC Championship game. Bengals 28, Titans 24.
Anthony Cosenza: The Titans are a tough, physical, well-coached team that has endured a lot this season to become the No. 1 seed. The Bengals are talented but are also playing with “house money,” as not many folks pegged them to make it to the second round of the postseason. Both teams do have vulnerabilities and corresponding answers to their counterparts’ perceived weaknesses. A lot of things are pointing to Tennessee advancing, but this Bengals team feels special—particularly in a quarterback-driven league. Cincinnati 30, Titans 26
Adam Haste: While the Titans are likely to have Henry, Brown, and Jones available on Saturday, that group has not played many snaps together this season, which can cause some chemistry issues. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing may try to avoid doing too much with those playmakers. Nonetheless, I think the Bengals’ chemistry and offensive talent will prevail. Bengals 31, Titans 17
Matt Minich: The Bengals will make a statement this weekend. Burrow will connect with Chase for 200 and two touchdowns on his way to throwing over 400 yards and four touchdowns on the day. Bengals 38, Titans 13
Mojokong: Burrow’s play ascends to yet another level and roasts Tennessee throughout the game. There will be only touchdowns on this day, with the Bengals doubling up the score. Zac Taylor eschews the run and gives the people what they want. Bengals 42, Titans 21
We previewed the game with former Titan Denard Walker, and he gave us his prediction in the video below:
You can also listen on iTunes or using the player below:
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