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Bengals vs. Titans Divisional Round Picks: Return of the King

Bengals vs. Titans Divisional Round Picks: Return of the King
Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans carries the ball against the Indianapolis Colts. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images via AFP.

It’s a battle between a returning king and the NFL’s next big thing as the Tennessee Titans host the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday. Find out where we lean in the Divisional Round betting matchup with our Bengals-Titans NFL picks.

It’s safe to say that nobody expected the Titans to be here when running back Derrick Henry suffered a foot injury in Week 8. The Titans survived some crazy roster attrition to hang onto the best record in the AFC, buying them an extra week to get healthy while the rest of the bracket duked it out on Wild Card Weekend.

It’s only fitting, then, that King Henry used that week to put the final touches on his rehab, and is set to rejoin his team for their Division Round playoff match-up with the Bengals.

The Bengals rattled off wins in five of seven games between Weeks 11 and 17 to secure their first AFC North title since 2015. QB Joe Burrow and Co., got the monkey off the back of the city of Cincinnati last week by beating the Las Vegas Raiders to earn the franchise’s first playoff win since the 1990 season. Cincy stands at 11-7 against the spread, which includes covering the number in last week’s 26-19 win over Vegas.

Now, though, the Bengals must leave the comforts of their home stadium and head to Nashville to face the 12-5 Titans. Tennessee finished the regular season at 10-7 ATS.

Here are my picks and predictions for the matchup between the Bengals and Titans (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook unless otherwise noted; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Bengals vs. Titans Game Info

Date/Time: Saturday, Jan. 22, 4:30 p.m. ET.
TV: CBS
Location: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
Weather: 40 degrees, 10% chance of precipitation, 5 mph winds

Bengals vs. Titans Odds Analysis

The Titans opened the week as favorites by between 3 and 3.5 points, depending on the sportsbook you were looking at. Pretty much across the board, the number has settled in at Tennessee -3.5 as of this writing. Derrick Henry’s impending return was anticipated since before the arrival of the opening line, so it hasn’t impacted things in any meaningful way throughout the week. Public tickets are split 50-50, but 65% of the cash is on the Titans.

The total opened at 47 points before ticking up to 47.5 at the majority of sportsbooks. The public and sharps are aligned with 78% of tickets and 77% of the cash on the Over.

Bengals Betting Preview

Record: 11-7 SU, 11-7 ATS, 8-10 O/U
Key Players: QB Joe Burrow, WR Ja’Marr Chase, RB Joe Mixon
Notable Trend: Bengals are 4-1 ATS as in their last four games as road underdogs

For many of the teams in the NFL playoffs, their continued presence in this portion of the postseason can be attributed to their offense and their defense in equal parts. The Bengals, in my view, are an exception to that trend.

It’s all about the offense for Cincinnati. 

Rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase leads the way as one of the NFL’s most significant game-breaking offensive weapons. However, Burrow doesn’t have to feel compelled to force everything toward his fellow LSU alum if the Titans decide to go all-in on stopping the pair from beating them. Receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, Mixon, and even tight end C.J. Uzomah all contribute toward one of the most dynamic offenses in football.

Cincinnati has proven itself feisty as a road underdog this season, covering the spread in four of their opportunities. Saturday presents another chance in the most important game for the Bengals franchise in 30 years.

Titans Betting Preview

Record: 12-5 SU, 10-7 ATS, 8-9 O/U
Key Players: RB Derrick Henry, QB Ryan Tannehill, DL Jeffery Simmons, DL Denico Autry
Notable Trend: Tennessee is 2-0 ATS with a rest advantage over its opponent this season

Listening to the narratives surrounding this game, it feels as though the Titans are one of the most easily dismissed one-seeds in NFL Playoffs history. Regardless of my prediction on the matchup, that really shouldn’t be the case. 

Sure, the Titans took advantage of a moderately soft AFC South schedule en route to edging out the Kansas City Chiefs on a tiebreaker for the top seed in the conference and the all-important bye week. It's also true that Tennessee pretty much needed the schedule to be littered with so many beatable opponents for this to have been a possible outcome.

However, considering the numerous injury-related setbacks the team endured at different points in the year, the regular-season accomplishments are pretty noteworthy. Additionally, the Titans are now as healthy as they’ve been in a while. Key offensive contributors like Henry, and receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones are back for the playoff run.

Tannehill has had his struggles with turnovers at times throughout the year. but with the Tennessee defense played its best football during the latter portion of the season. Tannehill should feel the freedom to settle into a game-manager role in the Divisional Round.

SEE ALSO: Bengals vs. Titans Prop Picks

Bengals vs. Titans Picks

Bengals +3.5 (-110) ★★★★
Over 47.5 (-112 via FanDuel Sportsbook) ★★
Under 9.5 first-quarter total (-110) ★★★
Ja’Marr Chase anytime touchdown (+140) ★★★
Same-game Parlay: Bengals +3.5 + Tannehill Under 299.5 passing yards +  Julio Jones Under 69.5 receiving yards + Burrow Over 254.5 passing yards + Chase Over 64.5 receiving yards (+550) ★★

SEE ALSO: All Divisional Round Picks

Bengals vs. Titans Predictions

Bengals +3.5 (-110)

This Bengals-Titans pick isn’t an indictment of the Titans as a weak No. 1 seed. I think that under different circumstances, facing a different offense this week, the Titans might have a stronger edge to move on to the AFC Championship. However, Burrow isn’t done making magic in the postseason. The specific way the Bengals match up against the Titans defense bodes well for Cincinnati to pull off the upset.

That’s right. While I’ll happily take the points, I’m also eager to wager on the Bengals' moneyline for that additional return on my investment. Cincinnati is +155 at DraftKings. Starting your weekend off by calling an upset win is a nice way to boost the ol' bankroll.

So how can the Bengals make this happen? It’s all about the passing attack against a leaky Titans secondary. Though Tennessee has generally clamped down on allowing high point totals during the latter stretch of the season, their pass defense still has left much to be desired.

The Titans surrendered 245.2 yards per game through the air on the year to rank 25th in the NFL. It should come as no surprise that the Bengals are, well, pretty darn good at moving the ball through the air. The Bengals averaged 259.0 passing yards per game this season, good for seventh in the league. Actually, it’s better than that, as Brandon Allen put up only 136 yards in his meaningless Week 18 start against the Cleveland Browns to drag down the average.

Henry is absolutely going to be a snootful for the Bengals defense to handle. However, if there is a strength for the Cincinnati defense, it's on the ground. The Bengals ranked fifth by giving up just 102.5 rushing yards per game.

I like the strengths of the Bengals to exploit the weaknesses that still can be uncovered within Tennessee's defense. Burrow’s knack for good January football continues for at least another week.

Over 47.5 (-112)

I think 47 is a great number for this total, as 27-20 Bengals feels like a legitimate possibility for the final score for Saturday's game. Still, if you’re asking me to pick a game script, I think the matchups for each respective unit could lead to a game with sneaky shootout appeal.

I’m not picking the Bengals because of their defense. It’s Burrow’s world, and that means this game is going to see some points. Though the Titans locked things down much better lately than they were at the beginning of the year, they coughed up 25 points to the Houston Texans in Week 18. That was a game that Tennessee knew it needed in order to secure the bye, and the starters played.

All this to say (again), Burrow is going to enjoy his business trip. Though Tennessee’s defense gives up the second-fewest rushing yards per game, we want to reiterate that the passing lanes are often open against the Titans.

Tennessee also has too many offensive weapons to get completely skunked in this game. I think it will be highly competitive, with Burrow's crew finding a key fourth-quarter drive to put them over the top.

With both sides comfortably into the 20s, we should find our way to 48-plus points. I should point out, though, that betting this total is one of my least confident plays for this game as a two-star play. If you’re going to do it, target Fanduel, where the number is currently 47.5.

SEE ALSO: All Divisional Round Odds, Lines, and Picks

Under 9.5 first-quarter total (-110)

Here’s a quirky pick that I like for Saturday’s Bengals-Titans game. The low total of just 9 points for the entire quarter is dangerous, of course. It’s the lowest number of any of the four quarters (the second-quarter total, for example, is set at 14).

Given the return of Henry and the general desire to keep the ball out of Burrow's hands for as long as possible, I think an extended drive for the Titans early in the game is a distinct possibility. If the Titans get the football first and take a long chunk of time off the clock without finding the end zone, we may not even need much more than one punt in the first quarter to get out of this thing unscathed.

You might be sweating out the clock during the final offensive drive of the quarter, I predict a slow build for both teams offensively. This will allow the Under 9 to cash to get your betting weekend off to a strong start out of the gate.

Chase anytime touchdown (+140)

When the going gets tough, the Burrow-Chase connection gets going.

It has gotten the Bengals this far. Chase rose to the occasion with a massive three-TD explosion against the Chiefs in Week 17. In the playoff game against the Raiders, he went for nine catches and 116 yards.

Though the TD didn’t come in that one, we need to take the plus money in the Bengals' biggest game of the year.

Inevitably, the Titans will try to limit Chase, especially near the red zone. Try as they might, I don’t envy the task. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor even drew up a few hand-offs for the lead receiver in last week’s win, so don’t rule out the possibility of Cincy putting the ball in Chase's hands in a variety of ways. I don’t necessarily think calling my shot on two touchdowns at +750 would even be that far-fetched; at least one score, though, feels like a strong bet with a favorable return.

Same-game Parlay: Bengals +3.5 + Tannehill Under 299.5 passing yards +  Jones Under 69.5 receiving yards + Burrow Over 254.5 passing yards + Chase Over 64.5 receiving yards (+550)

What I love about the concept of Same-game Parlays is the degree of overlap that DraftKings allows for these things. We’re expecting a higher scoring game, sure, but I do think that a decent portion of Tennessee's scoring comes from the way Henry is able to help the team churn out first downs to get them down the field. Tannehill doesn't have to do it all.

That’s why I’m leaning toward the Titans gunslinger throwing for fewer than 300 yards. This opinion may not be particularly bold, considering Tannehill hit the 300-yard mark only twice all season. One of those games came without Henry.

Jones falling short of 69.5 yards has pretty much been the story of his season. He cleared that number just once, and it happened in September. If we’re projecting a lighter passing game for Tannehill, we might as well fade 'Twolio' as well.

It’s the same concept for stacking Burrow's yardage with Chase's. Chase is Burrow’s go-to man. Even if the Titans try to scheme him out of the game, Burrow will continue to pepper him with targets. Seventy yards for the leading receiver should be attainable as the Bengals QB clears the 254.5-yard total for the 12th time in 17 tries on the campaign.

Toss in the Bengals covering the spread, and you’ve cooked up a tasty SGP to capitalize on our Bengals-Titans picks.

SEE ALSO: All picks and odds. Be sure to check out SportsbookReview.com's community forums and betting tools.

Bengals-Titans picks made on 1/20/2022 at 11:20 p.m. ET.