This Sunday provides a “get right” game for the Tennessee Titans. They visit the Cincinnati Bengals for their first road trip since September 27th.
There is a lot of history between the two franchises heading into Sunday. Let’s take a look at that, where they stand now, and some some keys to success for the Titans this Sunday.
These two franchises are no strangers to one another. The Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals were once bitter divisional rivals back in the Oilers/Titans days.
The two franchises were both in the AFC Central up until the realignment in 2002, when the expansion Houston Texans joined the NFL.
The Titans/Oilers lead the all-time series with the Bengals 40-34-1, but the Titans only have two wins in the series since 2005. The Titans won the most recent game between the two foes on November 12th, 2017 by a score of 24-20.
Despite only two wins in 15 years, the Titans have the edge in the series since moving to Nashville. Their series record since that time (1999) stands at 9-5.
These two teams have a reputation of having close, competitive games. 10 of their 14 meetings since 1999 have been decided by one or two scores.
When analyzing the Bengals’ defense, I find it difficult to believe the trend of close, competitive games between these two franchises will repeat in 2020.
The Bengals are likely going to be without their starting left tackle, center, right tackle, and running back on Sunday. They’re one of the worst run defenses in the NFL and half the veterans are actively seeking trades. This is a get-right game for the #Titans if I ever saw one.
— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) October 26, 2020
They recently traded their 11-year veteran defensive end, Carlos Dunlap, to the Seahawks, taking away a key player from their already-poor run defense.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 28, 2020
The Bengals rush defense ranks 28th in the NFL, allowing 133.7 rushing yards per game. Regardless, the Titans will still have their choice of attacking the Bengals defense as their pass defense comes in at 25th.
Yet when I analyze their offense, I begin to see how this could end up being a shootout.
The Bengals have the 13th best passing attack in the league, which doesn’t bode well for the Titans 26th ranked pass defense. The Titans rush defense may catch a break as Joe Mixon did not practice today, and probably won’t suit up on Sunday.
That Bengals offense brings in a hot rookie quarterback in Joe Burrow, who has thrown for over 300 yards five times this season. He’s also had two three touchdown games, both versus the Cleveland Browns.
The Tennessee Titans defense has had trouble getting offenses off the field, allowing a 62% third down conversion rate this season which, historically, is one of the worst in the NFL through six games.
If that continues, Joe Burrow may be in for another 300+ yard day with multiple touchdowns.
The Bengals have had fourth quarter leads in five of their first seven games. So, they aren’t an easy team to beat, despite their 1-5-1 record.
This game can be considered a “trap game” for the 5-1 Tennessee Titans. The Bengals only have one win on the season and the Titans are clearly the better team.
However, the Bengals are talented and can easily exploit the Titans abysmal defense with their passing attack.
Getting Adoree Jackson back would be huge if that were to happen. It could possibly help the Titans fix their historically poor third down defense. Neutralizing Joe Burrow and his favorite target, Tee Higgins, on Sunday is key for the Titans defense to find any success.
Malcolm Butler and company will need to be focused on shutting down the speedy Bengals receivers. Also, you can’t forget about the seven-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green, even though he has been quiet so far this season.
Meanwhile on offense, they will need to exploit the Bengals poor run defense. The NFL rushing leader, Derrick Henry, should have a busy day out of the backfield on Sunday.
The Bengals will likely be locked-in on Henry, regardless of how poor their rush defense is. That means play-action should also be a big part of the Titans game plan this week to exploit the Bengals’ poor pass defense.
It just so happens that the run and play-action game are two things the Tennessee Titans do very, very well.
This should be a big game for Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown, and Jonnu Smith. If just two of those players can have a big day on Sunday, the Titans will very likely walk away with a 6-1 record.
The Bengals’ defensive weakness play well into the Titans’ offensive strengths, so I would not be shocked if we see another 40-point performance for the Tennessee Titans in Cincinnati. But the defense will need to make sure this game is a blow out, not a shootout.
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