The Cincinnati Bengals travel to Nashville this week to take on the Tennessee Titans in a divisional-round clash with a lot of uncertainty and unknown factors as we get closer to kickoff.
The Bengals are banged up on the run-stuffing portion of their defensive line, as they lost Larry Ogunjobi last week to a foot injury that sent him to the IR. On the other side of the ball, Derrick Henry is making his return after a long absence, but he is also playing with a metal plate in his foot along with 5 screws and another metal plate in his shoe which may or may not seriously affect his ability to perform.
Looking at our model, we have this game coming out 28-27 in favor of the Bengals, however, as we know, this is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to our picks, it simply gives us a baseline to go off of.
The Bengals are 3-0 ATS as underdogs of 3.5-9.5 points and 2-1 straight up in the same scenario AND they are 7-2 ATS & straight up when playing teams with winning records. Obviously, they will be playing good teams for as long as they continue to play, but it is worth noting that they are able to step up to the challenge when they have strong opponents.
The Titans are tied for 23rd in total giveaways at 25 and have a total turnover margin of -3, they have a tendency to become careless with the ball at the risk of making a big play.
One key takeaway at face value that I believe more people need to understand is that the records of these two teams does not indicate who the better team is necessarily. The Titans played in the AFC South where they got to play the Jaguars and the Texans twice (even if they didn't win all of those games, the opponents were weaker teams) while the Bengals played in the AFC North, which featured 4 teams that almost made the playoffs and none of the teams won under 8 games. Make no mistake, the Bengals have had a much tougher path to this game than the Titans.
This has been one of the tougher games I've capped this season because of the question marks that surround this game. Is Derrick Henry going to play well enough in his return to ease the pressure on Tannehill? Can the Bengals find a way to slow down the King without their best run-stuffer?
My definitive stance here is that the Titans are a fraudulent team. They've had an easy schedule although I will admit they have had some impressive wins while they were very injured, and they haven't really played together as a healthy unit in a long time. This game is reliant on Derrick Henry, and while I know saying this will probably come back to bite me, I think running gets harder when you have two metal plates and 5 screws in your foot. The Bengals are in a good spot here with TEN having a lacking secondary and CIN's willingness to go into 3 WR sets (76% of snaps).
CIN +3.5 (-110) 2u
CIN +165 1u
*NOTE: SINCE WRITING THIS THE BENGALS HAVE MOVED TO +4 AND +170/+180 ON MOST BOOKS