NASHVILLE — Taking down the No. 1 one seed in the AFC won't be easy, but that's what the Bengals are hoping to do on Saturday afternoon.
Since 2010 only six No. 1 seeds have lost in the divisional round of the playoffs. If any quarterback can make it seven, it’s Joe Burrow.
Here are three keys to victory, as the Bengals look for their first road playoff win in franchise history.
Give Joe Time in the Pocket
Burrow has been great at improvising when there are breakdowns on the line. He’s able to extend plays, and work efficiently while under pressure, but no quarterback likes to be under constant duress.
The Titans had one of the worst pass rushes last year and they’ve managed to turn into regular quarterback harassers. Last year they ranked 26th in the NFL with 25 sacks, but that number jumped up to 43 this season.
While Tennessee’s defense has been good lately, but they’ve still given up over 245 yards per game through the air (25th). They’ll rely on Harold Landry III (12 sacks, 1 FF), Jeffery Simmons (8.5 sacks), and Denico Autry (9 sacks) to apply pressure and make Burrow’s life miserable.
The Titans defensive line is one of their stronger units and they will be looking to exploit Cincinnati’s offensive line. Burrow can obliterate Tennessee with explosive plays if given the chance. The Titans rank 27th in the NFL in 20+ Yard pass plays allowed.
Contain Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry is the type of player who simply cannot be stopped, but it is possible to contain him and keep him from killing you with explosive plays. The Bengals must tackle efficiently on Saturday because taking one play off or not going 100 percent on every snap could be the difference in Henry having a 4-5 yard gain and a 25 yard gain.
Having a physical player like Henry returning from injured reserve gives the Titans a boost going into Saturday’s game.
“In my opinion, I think he's the best running back in the game," A.J. Brown told reporters this week. “Just having him back, having that confidence with him around, at any moment, he could go for 70 [yards]. That gives us confidence. So we're excited."
The Bengals will be without defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, but Josh Tupou is back after being out last week.
“Next man up. We've got a lot of young guys in our room,” D.J. Reader said. “We're going to pull on guys. Guys might have to move around but, it's the next man up. We got to go out there and get it done and do a great job with the things that Larry sees. He's still around us, he talks to us all the time so, taking his coaching as another coach out there and just having a good time."
The good news is Trey Hendrickson cleared concussion protocol and will play against the Titans. The star defensive end finished with 14 sacks in the regular season.
Henry wouldn’t be putting his body on the line if he wasn't fully recovered and the Bengals should expect to face an angry runner on Saturday.
Don’t Rely on Field Goals
The Bengals cannot expect to beat the No. 1 seed Titans if they aren't scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Evan McPherson made all four of his attempts last week and while it was enough to beat the Raiders, it won't be enough to beat this Titans team at home.
Playing with aggression and being bullish about leaving the red zone with a touchdown will be a key for Cincinnati on Saturday.
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