The Cincinnati Bengals earned their first playoff victory since 1990 last week, but must now hit the road to face the AFC’s top seed in the Tennessee Titans. Important injury questions for both teams have added to the intrigue leading up to this game, one that could go down to the final whistle.
Let’s take a look at this AFC Divisional Round matchup with full betting analysis before making a Bengals vs. Titans prediction and betting pick.
Bengals vs. Titans Prediction
Tennessee running back Derrick Henry has not played since Oct. 31, but he will give it a go against the Bengals. However, it’s difficult to imagine that he will be able to handle anything near a full workload during his first game back since fracturing his foot. That’s especially a concern knowing the number of hits he takes on each carry, a byproduct of being so difficult to bring down.
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As for Cincinnati, there was some concern about defensive end Trey Hendrickson’s availability after he suffered a concussion last Saturday. He, too, will be in the lineup this afternoon after clearing protocols earlier in the week. The Pro Bowl defensive end finished the season with the NFL’s fifth most sacks (15) and has consistently proven highly disruptive to opposing passers. He seemingly has a chance to make an impact in this one given Tennessee allowed the seventh most sacks per game this season.
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All About the Matchups
His presence alone could be devastating for the Titans. Hendrickson creates significant pressure on opposing quarterbacks and Ryan Tannehill managed to throw the eighth most interceptions this season, this despite leading the ninth worst passing offense. The Bengals are an elite run defense, fifth best in football, but also intercepted the sixth most passes per game on the road this year. Committing their best run stoppers to clogging the box, while letting Hendrickson run wild after Tannehill would surely be a recipe for success. As such, the Bengals seem to have a great matchup here on that side of the ball.
The Titans also boast a top notch run-stopping unit, allowing the second fewest rushing yards per game throughout the regular season. That said, running the football isn’t how the Bengals pay the rent offensively. Instead, quarterback Joe Burrow will be leading the NFL’s seventh best passing offense against a Titans pass defense that conceded 245.2 yards per game through the air, the league’s eighth worst average. The Titans allowed those gaudy numbers despite playing six games against Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Houston, which are ranked 23rd, 26th, and 28th in passing yards per game, respectively.
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This game opened at the key number of -3 at many sportsbooks with the home Titans listed as favorites. That number dipped to -2.5 briefly and then climbed up to -3.5 where it currently rests at most sports betting apps. As it sits now, Tennessee is commanding a slightly higher percentage of the handle, while Cincinnati is taking on a higher chunk of the bets at most apps.
The total opened around 46.5, but can now be found around 47 or 47.5 as bettors are hammering the over with regards to both handle and number of bets.
ATS Trends to Know
We love being able to grab that extra half a point with Cincinnati at +3.5, given that Tennessee, despite owning the conference’s top seed, won just two of its final six regular season games by more than three points.
In fact, half of the Titans’ 12 wins this season came by three points or less, meaning they went just 6-11 against this spread during the regular season. They also faced six playoff teams during the year, going 4-3 SU and ATS, but covering this line in just two of those outings.
Cincinnati’s young offensive core could actually benefit from the rhythm generated by playing in back-to-back weeks to start the playoffs. That is evidenced by the fact that since opening day, the Bengals never had a win “streak” of just a single game. They won last week after resting most of their starters in a loss to Cleveland in the regular season finale, creating their own sort of bye week ahead of this stretch run.
And being rested has not ensured success in the NFL Playoffs in recent seasons, anyway, at least not against the spread. Favorites off a bye are just 28-38 ATS in the divisional round since 2004, bad news for a Titans team that has not covered any of its last five home playoff games, including last year’s home rout by the Ravens.
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In fact, this franchise has never won a single playoff game as a No. 1 seed, losing in this round to Baltimore in 2000 and 2008.
Top seeds are a solid 25-11 SU in the divisional round since 2004, but covered just 13 of those 36 games. Worse still, when those top seeds were favored by seven points or less, they covered just four of 15 opportunities. Shrink the line to 5.5 points or less (or even underdogs) and you find home teams have gone just 14-10 SU and 10-14 ATS in the divisional round since 2006.
With its high-powered offense which averaged 27.1 points per game, seventh most in football, Cincinnati could just prove too much for Tennessee to match. After all, road teams in the divisional round that score 21 or more points have gone 20-19 SU and 27-12 ATS since 2002. Potentially even more damning for the Titans, who average just 24.6 points per game, home teams in the divisional round that put up 26 points or less have gone 18-20 SU since 2002, covering only six of those 38 games.
The Bengals have covered five straight games, all against AFC opponents, and are 6-1 ATS in their last seven on the road. They have also covered four of their last five in the underdog role, including four straight as road underdogs.
Note: click here to check out some Bengals vs. Titans prop picks.
Bengals vs. Titans Pick
The stage never seems too big for Joe Burrow and no one seems to be able to slow down Ja’Marr Chase. The Bengals have covered four straight in head-to-head matchups with the Titans and have gone 4-1 ATS in their last five as the road team in the series. Look for the underdog to hang tight enough here to grab the fifth underdog cover in the last six meetings between these two sides.
Our Pick: Cincinnati +3.5
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