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VOL. 46 | NO. 3 | Friday, January 21, 2022

Bengals at Titans: What to watch

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The Titans are in the playoffs with the No. 1 seed, meaning they won’t have to leave Nissan Stadium until the Super Bowl if they take care of business.

But being the No. 1 seed has not been kind to the franchise in the past. Both previous occurrences led to losses to the Baltimore Ravens.

The good news is the Ravens missed the playoffs. But the Titans still must play well when the Cincinnati Bengals come to town Saturday or risk the hat trick of failure as a No. 1 seed.

Here are four aspects of Saturday’s Divisional Round Playoff game that are key to the Titans’ success.

First down

Get Derrick Henry involved. Henry’s anticipated return from a broken foot should provide a big moment when he runs through the tunnel for introductions Saturday. But the Titans need more than just an emotional lift from Henry. They could use about 120 yards rushing.

The question is how quickly can Henry shake off the rust and be close to his old form. The Titans can’t force feed Henry if something is amiss. D’Onta Foreman proved his worth and is a nice insurance policy if the Titans decide Henry isn’t quite back to his pre-injury form.

Second down

Protect Ryan Tannehill and the ball. Ryan Tannehill has found his rhythm since the return of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones to the lineup. Now, it is up to the offensive line to give Tannehill adequate time to throw the football, and it will be up to Tannehill to keep the ball out of harm’s way.

Turnovers can be killer, especially in a playoff game. The Titans need the Tannehill of the past three games to show up Saturday and lead the offense in the passing game.

Third down

Get pressure and turnovers. The Titans’ defense has been a pleasant surprise this season, able to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Harassing Joe Burrow will be a key to throwing off the timing of the Bengals quarterback.

Cincinnati has gone five consecutive weeks without a turnover. That needs to change. The Titans’ defense has been able to turn pressure into takeaways, which makes the entire team better.

Fourth down

Slow down JaMarr Chase. The Bengals super rookie receiver has been a big key in Cincinnati’s revival this year, reconnecting with Burrow, his former college teammate at LSU.

Chase finished his first NFL season with 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns, numbers that are eye-popping, especially for a rookie. It could be that another former LSU player will figure heavily in this game – that being Tennessee cornerback Kristian Fulton, who could end up having to try and stop Chase Saturday.

-- Terry McCormick

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