Bengal-mania is sweeping Ohio.
For the first time since 1991, the Cincinnati Bengals won a playoff game, knocking off the Las Vegas Raiders, 26-19, advancing to face the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Divisional Round Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Nashville.
Bengals star quarterback Joe Burrow threw for 244 yards and two scores in the Bengals historic win, but the Bengals will have their paws full with the top-seeded Titans, who should get a monster boost from the return of star running back Derrick Henry. Henry missed the second half of the season with a broken foot but is expected to play.
The two teams did not meet in the regular season, and last played in 2020. The two franchises met in the 1990–1991 playoffs, ironically. That was the Bengal’s last playoff victory until the win over the Raiders. However, the Bengals are favored in the Ohio sportsbooks.
Furthermore, the Titans (originally the Houston Oilers) lead the all-time series 40-35-1. Tennessee has played in one Super Bowl and lost. The Titans are 12-5 and won the AFC South Division title this season. The Titans were in the AFC Championship game in 2019.
Cincinnati is 11-7 this season and has played in a pair of Super Bowls, losing both. They are the only AFL franchise to have never won an NFL or AFL title.
The Titans are listed as 3.5-point favorites at both Caesars and BetMGM. The over/under total is listed at 47 points by Caesars and 46.5 by BetMGM.
Despite being the top seed in the AFC, the Titans haven’t gotten much respect from the oddsmakers. The Titans are just +320 at Caesars to make the Super Bowl from the conference, behind both the Bills and Chiefs (who meet in the other AFC Divisional Round contest).
The Bengals get even less respect. They are +550 at Caesars to reach Super Bowl LVI.
In their last five games, the Bengals were favored three times and covered the spread in all three. They were underdogs twice but covered the spread each time, including a straight-up win over Kansas City.
The Titans have been listed as the favorite in three of their last five games. In two of those three, they won and covered the spread.
Tennessee was the 11-point favorite over Houston in the regular-season finale but didn’t cover the spread, winning 28-25. Tennessee didn’t cover once in the two games where they were the underdogs and was a push the other time.
The top seed
Now let’s talk top seeds. The NFL gives top seeds a big advantage by giving them a week off while the Wild Card round is playing live. It’s a chance for them to rest and scout their opponent up close.
The top seed has been a favorite nine times in the last 10 NFL playoff games in the Divisional Round. That’s not a surprise. The only time the top seed wasn’t the favorite was the Eagles in 2019 against the Falcons.
The top seed is 8-2 straight-up in the last 10 Divisional Round games. Against the spread, the top seed is 7-3. By the way, when the Falcons were favored against the Eagles back in 2019, the Eagles still won 15-10.
Talking it over/under
The trend here at 47 points is interesting. Of the Titan’s 17 regular-season games, eight went over 47 points, but four of their last five did not.
Nine Bengal games this season went over 47 points, but not the last two. That’s a trend for the under.
Cincinnati’s high-powered offense has averaged 27 points a game, while the Titans have put up 24.6. Defensively, Tennessee has one of the top units in the NFL, giving up 20.8 points a game, while the Bengals have allowed 21.9.
The weather in Nashville, home of Nissan Stadium, is expected to be mild for this time of year. Temperatures at kickoff in the mid-30s are partly cloudy with a very small chance of rain.
On the field, the big X factor is the return of Henry for the Titans. In 2020, he led the NFL with 2,027 yards, but the Bengal’s defense against the run has been excellent. Cincinnati ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing defense.
Whether or not Henry comes in rusty is a big question. Running backs who haven’t played in a while can be turnover-prone. The oddsmakers see it as a close one. The Bengals have momentum, but the Titans have respect and a chance to rest.