Line Dancing Divisional Playoffs

Matthew Malec

While most people’s attention will be on Patrick Mahomes battling Josh Allen on the other side of the AFC, the upstart Bengals will head to Tennessee to face one of the worst top seeds in recent memory. 

The Titans do have the advantages of playing at home and should be rested after their bye, but are they simply the less talented team? Let’s see what the Quality Stats say.

Titans Look to Get Back to Efficient Ways Offensively

Ryan Tannehill’s usually excellent efficiency numbers slid back this year. He was only 19th in Real Quarterback Rating and 17th in Offensive Passer Rating. He will have A.J. Brown and Julio Jones active and healthy for the first time in weeks, and of course, Derrick Henry is expected to return. 

The Bengal’s pass defense is also one of their weaknesses. They rank in the middle of the pack across the board. With his full set of playmakers back, Tannehill could be in line for a sneakily big day here. We’ve seen him do it before, and maybe he can find his form at the right time. 

On the ground, Tennessee only ranks 11th in Offensive Rusher Rating. Their attack is rooted in volume more than efficiency, but the Cincy defense is only 20th in Defensive Rusher Rating, which should enable them to succeed either way. The Titan’s offense has viable paths to scoring in this game. 

Joe Burrow and Company Ride the Momentum Into Tennessee

Unfortunately for them, the Bengals just may have even more. Joe Burrow has emerged as a superstar, ranking in the top five of all our passing metrics, including second in Offensive Passer Rating. The Tennessee pass defense is around league average, so Burrow should shred it. 

He could be slowed down if the Titans pass rush, which ranks third on the Defensive Hog Index, has success against the Bengal’s line, which ranks only 16th. But the more likely outcome is Burrow having another big day, even if he takes a few big hits along the way. 

Cincinnati could also alleviate some pressure by letting Joe Mixon get some work against a Titan’s defense that ranks just 22nd in Defensive Rusher Rating.

The three key CHFF Indexes (Intelligence Index, Real Quarterback Rating Differential, and Passer Rating Differential) are a sweep for the underdog. 

The passing defenses are about equal, but Burrow has been far better than Tannehill this season. The Bengals offense has had more success in the red zone, leading to a sizable edge in Scoreability, the offensive half of the Intelligence Index. 

For all of the hate on Zac Taylor, he has gotten a lot out of this offense and developed the young talent rather well. He has shown he is capable if not a genius. 

Tennessee can win this game by pressuring Burrow and leaning on their newly healthy offensive weapons to make plays, but the stats show that the Bengals are simply the better team, especially on offense. It’s 2022; the passing attack wins games. 

I’ll gladly back the better quarterback while getting more than a field goal, even on the road against a well-rested opponent.

THE PICK: Bengals +3.5