After a one-week break – and a weekend of rest – the Tennessee Titans know their first postseason opponent.
The Titans will host the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday in the first game of the NFL’s divisional round. Kickoff will be 3:30 p.m. (CST) at Nissan Stadium.
Cincinnati advanced with a 26-19 wild card victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday. It was that franchise’s first postseason triumph in 31 years in its first postseason appearance since 2015. The Bengals went 10-7 and finished first in the AFC North after having been dead last in the division each of the previous three seasons.
The teams met last season in Cincinnati, and the Bengals won 31-20. That was their only victory in a nine-game stretch.
Here are some things to know about the Titans’ next opponent.
Going deep: Quarterback Joe Burrow threw 34 touchdown passes during the regular season, and 15 of them (44.1 percent) covered 30 yards or more. That was the most in the NFL by a wide margin. The next best quarterbacks in that regard were Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady (eight), Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (seven) and Seattle’s Russell Wilson (seven). Until this year, no Bengals quarterback had more than nine in a season.
In a Dec. 26 victory over Baltimore, Burrow completed passes of 68 yards to wide receiver Tyler Boyd, 52 yards to wide receiver Tee Higgins and 52 yards to running back Joe Mixon (Boyd’s went for a touchdown). That made him the eighth quarterback since 2000 to have at least three completions of that length in a single game. His 525 passing yards that day are fourth-most by any NFL quarterback in game.
Sack Master: Defensive end Trey Hendrickson had the league’s longest sack streak in 2021 – and tied the second-longest streak ever – with at least half a sack in 11 straight games (5-15). The record is 12, set by Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse in 1999.
Hendrickson had at least half a sack in 13 of the 16 games he played and finished with 14, which ranked fifth. He had 13 1/2 last season with New Orleans, and his 27 1/2 over the past two seasons rank third in the league.
Standing their ground: The Bengals committed 21 turnovers during the regular season, which was fewer than every other AFC playoff team except Pittsburgh (20).
Even when they did cough it up, though, it did not cost them a whole lot. Three of their giveaways were returned for touchdowns, but on the other 18 opponents scored just three touchdowns and eight field goals. There were also two punts, one missed field goal and one turnover on downs. On the remaining three, Cincinnati’s defense forced a turnover of its own, one of which it returned for a touchdown.
Great eight: During the regular season, the Bengals were among the NFL’s best teams during the “middle eight,” the final four minutes of the first half and first four minutes of the second half (four of the NFL’s top five in that regard reached the postseason).
Their plus-56 point differential during that span tied them with the Dallas Cowboys for best in the league. That included 63 points in the final two minutes of the first half, which ranked fourth, and another 56 points on the opening possession of the second half, which was second only to Green Bay.
They said it: “We feel like if we're on top of our game, we can beat any team in this league. We're not afraid of anybody. This team's got a ton of confidence. We always know it's going to be difficult. Whoever we play next, it's going to be a great team, but our guys won't worry about that. We feel like we can put pressure on teams as well. We can be aggressive, and teams have to worry about us, and our players really feel that and apply that." – Bengals coach Zac Taylor.
Briefly: Second-year linebacker Logan Wilson had a team-high four interceptions, which tied him for the most by any NFL linebacker. … Wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are the first teammates ever to top 1,000 receiving yards in a season when both are younger than 23. Chase, at 21, had a franchise record 1,455, and Higgins, who turns 23 on Tuesday, had 1,091. … Kicker Evan McPherson – a rookie – led the league with nine field goals of 50 yards or more, one shy of the NFL record. He had three game-winning kicks, including one in his debut. … Former Titans guard Quinton Spain joined the Bengals last October and made his debut for them against Tennessee. Since, he has started 25 out of 26 contests, including the playoffs.