3 Mistakes Bengals Must Avoid vs. Titans, Possible Derrick Henry Return
The Cincinnati Bengals' second playoff game of the Joe Burrow era presents a much harder challenge than the first.
Cincinnati has to go on the road to take on the top-seeded Tennessee Titans, who were one of the best home teams in the regular season.
Burrow must avoid mistakes in the pocket versus a Titans defense that has been terrific at taking away the ball from opposing offenses over the past month.
The Bengals need to contain the top part of the Titans offense as well to come away with a victory.
Derrick Henry's looming return and Larry Ogunjobi's injury complicate matters in terms of the defensive strategy inside Nissan Stadium. The Bengals can't try to overcompensate for Ogunjobi's absence because then they will get hurt by Ryan Tannehill in the passing game.
Cincinnati must keep a level approach on defense to gain a few stops and set up Burrow in the best possible situation to contend for an upset.
The Tennessee Titans forced eight turnovers in their past three home games.
Cincinnati has not committed a turnover since the Week 14 overtime thriller against the 49ers. The Bengals turned over the ball twice in that contest.
They had multiple giveaways in just five of their 17 regular-season contests. Ball security will be vital for Burrow as he plays in his first road playoff game. Tennessee should bring pressure to make the sophomore feel uncomfortable.
The Titans picked off 16 passes and forced 13 fumbles on their way to the AFC's No. 1 seed. They also totaled 93 quarterback hits. Harold Landry, Denico Autry and Jeffery Simmons all had more than 15 quarterback hits.
Landry, Autry, Simmons and others will put as much pressure on Burrow as they can get. The potential pressures could lead to some rushed throws or poor decisions from Burrow, which would significantly alter the momentum of the contest.
As long as the Bengals avoid turnovers, they have the potential to be in the contest deep into the fourth quarter.
Don't Overcompensate for Larry Ogunjobi's Absence
Cincinnati's defense took a major hit when Larry Ogunjobi was placed on injured reserve after he suffered a foot injury in the Wild Card Round.
Ogunjobi finished in the top three on the Bengals roster in tackles for loss, sacks and quarterback hits.
The big defensive tackle would have been vital in dealing with Derrick Henry's return to the Tennessee rushing attack, with the running back expected to be activated to play Saturday, per NFL Media's Kevin Patra.
Cincinnati can't overcompensate for Ogunjobi's absence by committing an extra man to the box to try to defend against Henry. The Bengals need to keep the same rushing defense game plan in place to deal with Henry's potential impact. Committing too many numbers to defending the run could open up more space in the passing game for Tannehill.
Henry could take up most of the defensive attention, but the Bengals must be wary of the threat Tannehill poses.
Don't Force Throws to Ja'Marr Chase
Cincinnati needs its wide receiver depth to show up Saturday.
Ja'Marr Chase caught nine of his 12 targets in the Wild Card Round and had double the targets of Burrow's next favorite wide receiver.
Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel and his defensive staff will scheme up a game plan to try to take Chase out of the game in certain instances.
Burrow can't force the ball into Chase on plays in which he is covered in one-on-one battles or stuck against multiple defensive backs.
The second-year quarterback needs to have trust in Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins to attack all parts of the Tennessee secondary.
Burrow's focus away from Chase could cause the Titans to fall asleep containing the No. 1 wide receiver, which would then open up the possibility for a big play.
Boyd and Higgins are more than trustworthy options. Boyd has a touchdown in four straight games, and Higgins produced four 100-yard receiving games after Week 12.