Ten months later, the long-awaited rematch between the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals is here.
The Titans (7-3) host the Bengals (6-4) from Nissan Stadium on Sunday (noon, CBS) for the first time since last season’s 19-16 AFC Divisional Round loss that eliminated the top-seeded Titans from the postseason. As expected, both teams are back in the playoff hunt this year, having battled through crucial injuries and leaned into what they do best to rank among the AFC teams with the best records.
Cincinnati has one of the NFL’s most impressive offenses, ranking in the top five in passing yards per game, first downs per game, third down conversion rate and red zone touchdown percentage. The Titans have won with defense, allowing the league’s fewest rushing yards per game and lowest third down conversion rate, while depending on running back Derrick Henry, the league’s sole 1,000-yard rusher.
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Here are The Tennessean’s scouting report and score prediction for the Titans vs. the Bengals.
Titans offense vs. Bengals defense
Cincinnati has done a good job of limiting top rushers this year. Cleveland’s Nick Chubb is the only player to surpass 100 yards against the Bengals, and he topped out at 101. That said, teams like the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens had success getting multiple rushers involved, gashing the Bengals for 228 and 155 rushing yards, setting up a favorable matchup for not just Henry but also spell backs Dontrell Hilliard and Hassan Haskins.
A key matchup to watch will be in pass protection. The Titans allow the NFL’s fourth-most sacks per pass attempt and the Bengals register the NFL’s fourth-fewest sacks per pass attempt. According to Pro Football Focus, the Titans have the NFL’s worst pass protection grade but the Bengals are actually middle-of-the-pack in pass rush grade. If the Bengals can start getting home, this could be a big problem for the Titans. If the Titans can take advantage of the Bengals’ struggles bringing down quarterbacks, this could set up a second-straight big game for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the passing offense.
Cincinnati has given up 30 or more points in two of its last three games. The Titans set a season-high with 27 points last week against Green Bay. It’s hard to call either of these trends predictive, but based on what’s happened the last few weeks the Titans might have a slight advantage when they have the ball.
Titans defense vs. Cincinnati offense
In six wins this season, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has thrown two interceptions and been sacked an average of twice per game. In four losses, he’s thrown six interceptions and been sacked five times per game. For a Titans defense that ranks eighth in the NFL in interceptions and ninth in sacks, the formula for slowing Burrow down is pretty simple.
The Titans sacked Burrow nine times and held him without a passing touchdown in the playoff loss. But this season’s Bengals have been as dangerous through the air as ever (only Kansas City, Buffalo and Miami throw for more yards per game) while the Titans have struggled against top-flight passing offenses (only Pittsburgh and Minnesota allow more passing yards per game).
On a per-play basis, the Titans’ secondary looks a little better, ranking No. 16 in pass defense instead of No. 30. But volume is what to expect from Cincinnati, the team that throws the ball the sixth-most times per game in the NFL. So if the Titans can generate a pass rush, give them the advantage. If not, Burrow and his receivers are going to either find success early or keep throwing until they find it.
Titans 28, Bengals 23: The Titans’ defense generates a couple of turnovers and keeps Burrow under pressure, Tannehill has another above-average game and Henry’s wears down the Bengals’ defense just enough for the Titans to make up for last year’s playoff loss with a regular season win.
Contact Nick Suss at [email protected] Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee Titans vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Scouting report, prediction