by Teresa M. Walker AP Pro Football Writer
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Titans avoided using more players than any NFL team in a non-strike season and still earned the AFC’s top seed.
He’s as rested and healthy as he’s been all season, and now he’s running back Derrick Henry, the NFL’s top runner in 2019 and 2020, for the postseason.
It’s time to take the next step in their AFC divisional game with Cincinnati on Saturday.
“Everything we’ve dreamed of since we were kids has been in front of us,” said All-Pro Safety Kevin Byrd.
The Titans (12–5) started their third straight post season before a sold out crowd at Nissan Stadium trying to take advantage of home ground advantage at a venue where they were 7–2 during the regular season. . They lost a wild-card game here to Baltimore a year earlier and have not won a playoff game at home since January 11, 2003.
The two-time AFC South Champs have won three straight and four out of five. Another win put them in their second AFC Championship game in three seasons.
“These guys were ready to play for a long time in 2022,” Titans coach Mike Wrabel said.
It is a revival of an old AFC Central rivalry between fourth-seeded Cincinnati and the former Houston Oilers. The Bengals won the only playoff game between these teams, 27–14, on January 6, 1991. It was their last post-season win until second-year quarterback Joe Burrow led them to a 26–19 victory over the Raiders and broke that 31. Years dry.
Now, these young Bengals (11–7) must endure another playoff skid to reach Cincinnati’s first AFC Championship game since January 1989 and third overall. The Bengals are 0-7 in the home-away playoff, and Houston is the only other NFL team not to have won a road playoff game yet.
“We’re here to win,” said the Bengals, slamming Joe Mixon. “We don’t care about a principle, I think everyone’s worried too much. We know what’s in front of us. We know what we need to do to get where we want to go.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . for our own , “
Of course, the Titans wearing the number 22 will be back for a game on January 22, 2022. Henry, the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, has been removed from injured reserve and will start his first game after breaking. His right leg on October 31.
Henry has practiced since January 5, and teammates couldn’t be happier for the return of the man, who averaged 117.1 yards in his post-season run. Unknown is how much the Titans can hand the ball to someone who hasn’t played a game in 12 weeks, even though Henry is 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds.
WULD-BE TRIPLETS MEET AGAIN
The Titans had Henry as well as wide receivers AJ Brown and Julio Jones for all 120 snaps in five games due to injuries. Henry is not only healthy, Brown and Jones, both of whom picked up a seven-time pro bowler in a trade last June, are feeling well.
Brown led the team with 869 yards and five touchdown catches. Jones had the worst statistical season, while a hamstring tackle landed him on injured reserve at one point. Jones averaged 14 yards per catch, the highest among team receivers with at least 10 catches.
“I’m in a great place now, confident, everything,” Jones said. “I’m ready to go.”
protect the ball
Burrow had an NFL-high 14 interceptions during the 13 weeks of the season. In the five games he has played since then – including last week’s playoff win – he has had none with 13 touchdown passes. His streak of 180 pass attempts without a hitch is the second longest stretch in the NFL behind Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.
The Bengals have not turned the ball at all since an overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers on December 12. The team has been plus-4 in turnover since then.
The Bengals will have defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who approved concussion protocol for the game. His 14 sacks led the Bengals in the regular season and the fifth-best total in the NFL. He had a strip-sack from Raiders Derek Carr last week, which resulted in his trade. He was later ruled out of the game due to injury.
“He’s been in these moments before,” said coach Zack Taylor. “He’s one of our key players. It’s nice to have him.”
Cincinnati will be without defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who was placed on injured reserve after a leg injury last week. Hendrickson and Ogunjobi were signed as free agents prior to the season to bolster the pass crowd and run the defense. It worked.
Enough defensive linemen are among the walking wounded that Cincinnati signed defensive tackle Zach Kerr from Arizona’s practice squad. Taylor said Kerr could play on Saturday.
The Titans had their latest bye week during the regular season on December 5 with Green Bay, and they have been closed since January 9 after earning a first-round bye. No one has been better than the Titans with nine or more days of rest since Wrabel was hired in 2018, 8-0.
Bengal in Titans (11-7) (12-5)
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
TV / Radio: Ch. 2, 570 am
Betting Line: According to the FanDuel Sportsbook, Titans is at 3:30
Against spread: Bengal 10-7; Titans 10-7
Series record: Titans Lead, 40-35-1
last meeting: The Bengals won 31-20 in Cincinnati on November 1, 2020.
Last week: Bengals beat Raiders, 26-19; The Titans had a bye in the first round after beating the Texans 28-25.
Bengal Crime: Overall (13), Rush (23), Pass (7), Scoring (T-7).
Bengal Defence: Overall (18), Rush (5), Pass (26), Scoring (T-17).
Titans Offenses: Overall (17), Rush (5), Pass (24), Scoring (15).
Titans Defense: Overall (10), Rush (2), Pass (20), Scoring (14).
Turnover difference: Bengal 0; Titans minus -3.
Bengali players to watch: den. The top pick in the 2020 draft set a franchise record with 4,611 yards passed and 34 TD passes during the regular season, and his 108.3 passer rating ranks second in the NFL. He completed 70.6% of his passes for 244 yards and two TDs in his playoff debut last week. Burrow has not been intercepted in his last five starts, averaging 344 yards with 13 TDs in that period.
Titans players to watch: Henry. The 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year was the NFL’s leading rush with 937 yards when he broke his right leg on October 31 – and still finished ninth in the league. His 111.7-yard rushing average in the postseason is second only to Terrell Davis’s 142.5-yard mark, the highest in the NFL with at least five games since 1970. And he now has fresh legs after being activated on Friday from injured reserve.
Major Matches: Defending the Titans against Cincinnati’s passing game. Burrows has plenty of goals, setting a franchise record with Pro Bowl WR Ja’Marr Chase receiving 1,455 yards. T Higgins also had a season of 1,000 yards, while Tyler Boyd was not far behind with 828 yards. The Titans were the only NFL team to have three pass rushers with at least eight sacks, and they finished ninth with 43 sacks. All-Pro safety Kevin Byrd had five interceptions in the regular season.
Major Injuries: Bengals DT Larry Ogunjobi (ankle) is out for the rest of the playoffs. Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson was released from concussion protocol and will play. Titans are as healthy as they are suspect with only dl tyr tart (ankle) in months.
Series Note: These teams are old AFC Central rivals, and the then-Houston Oilers were the team that was defeated 27–14 by the Bengals on January 6, 1991. It was Bengal’s last postseason win until last week’s wild-card win. Years dry. The Bengals have won five of the last seven between these teams in the regular season.
Stats and stuff: Cincinnati went from worst in the division to first place for the fifth time. It also happened in 1970, ’81, ’88 and ’90. … Titans won their second consecutive AFC South title and first No. 1 seed since the 2008 season. … the Titans lead 1-3 in the divisional round at home and have lost their last two games as the top seed. They are looking to reach their second AFC Championship game in three seasons and are sixth in franchise history. … The Bengals last reached the AFC Championship Game in the 1988 season. They have never won a playoff game on the road since 1970, going 0-7. … Burrow’s current streak of 180 pass attempts without a hit is currently the second longest in the NFL after Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (243). Burrow’s last interception was against the Chargers in Week 13. … Bengal have not lost a single rumble since that game. … the Bengals’ five road wins in the regular season was the most since winning six in 2015. … Cincinnati became the first team in NFL history to have a 4,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher, and two 1,000-yard receivers under the age of 26. Burrow and Joe Mixon are both 25, Higgins is 22, and Chase is 21. … Bengals kicker Evan McPherson became the first rookie in NFL history to score four or more field goals without a miss in his playoff debut. … the Bengals have scored on 86.5% of their visits in the red zone (39 TD, 17 FG). His 63.9% TD rate is the fifth best in the NFL. … Chase caught nine passes for 116 yards in a win over the Raiders. … Pro Bowl RB Mixon finished third with 1,205 rushing yards. … the Titans have won four out of five since making it to the playoffs. … the Titans are 8-0 under coach Mike Wrabel’s bye or extended rest. It is tied with Pittsburgh for the NFL’s best points tally since 2018. … Tennessee went 8–3 against teams with a winning record, becoming the first team in the NFL with eight wins in the league’s first 17-game season. … the Titans went 4–0 against teams that advanced to the divisional round, the best score among teams still playing. They defeated the Bills, Chiefs, Rams and 49ers. … Tennessee went on to lead an NFL-best 6-1 in games decided by three points or fewer during the regular season. … The Titans finished fifth at an average of 141.4 yards rushing per game. He finished second in run defense, allowing 84.6 yards per game. … Tennessee QB Ryan Tanhill threw 3,743 yards and 21 TDs this season. He is the only QB in the NFL to have seven or more rapid TDs in each of the last two seasons. … WR AJ Brown led the Titans with 63 catches for 869 yards and five TDs. … WR Julio Jones needs at least 50 yards to tie Wes Welker as the only player to have received at least 50 yards in each of his first nine playoff games in his career. are. … OLB Harold Landry had a career-high 12 sacks.