Tennessee @ Cincinnati
Power rankings: Tennessee 12, Cincinnati 13
When Cincinnati has the ball:
The Bengals offense is 18th in DVOA and 11th in EPA/play. Joe Burrow sits at 1st in PFF passing grades (91.8), has completed 70.4% of his passes, and gained 8.8 yards per attempt. Burrow has the 8th most interceptions in the league with 14, but he has a turnover worthy play rate of 2.3%, 4th best in the league. Essentially, he's been unlucky with interceptions and has done an excellent job keeping the ball out of harm's way. Stylistically, he's a deep ball passer -- he finished 9th in average depth of target (8.7) and 11th in deep passing rate (13%). Despite this, he still gets rid of the ball on the quicker end, finishing 11th in average time to throw at 2.64 seconds. Quick passes are necessary behind an offensive line that finished 30th in PFF pass block win rate metric and has been without RT Riley Reiff (ankle) since week 14. The result is Burrow is under pressure a lot less than you'd think -- his pressure rate of 33.4% is 22nd most in the NFL. He does, however, take far more sacks then one would prefer -- Burrow's sack to pressure ratio of 25.2% is 4th most in the league. He'll rely one of the better receiving trios in football, featuring old college friend Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Chase and Higgins work the outside while Boyd will typically handle the slot. TE CJ Ozumah and RBs Joe Mixon/Samaje Perine also factor into the pass game, but the Bengals offense runs through Burrow and the receivers. On the ground, Mixon will handle the RB carries behind an offensive line that fared much better in run blocking, finishing 10th in ESPN's run block win rate metric. Both LT Jonah Williams and LG Quinton Spain have been excellent run blockers -- and even though backup RT Isaiah Prince has been horrendous in pass protection, he's played much better in the run game. The Bengals prefer a mix of run and pass plays, ranking 13th in situation neutral early-down passing rate. They were better throwing than running, ranking 15th in DVOA on passes and 20th on runs. They're up against a Titans defense that ranks 12th in DVOA and 10th in EPA/play. The line finished 21st in pass rush win rate, but still generated pressure 24.0% of the time (21st in the league) despite only blitzing 19.9% of the time (28th most). The Bengals will need to deal with DE Harold Landry (64 pressures), DT Jeffery Simmons (62), and DE Denico Autry (61) -- all 3 have been effective pass rushers this year. Despite the play of the above 3, the Titans line is hampered by Bud Depree, who has just 24 pressures and 3 sacks in 11 games this season, as well as Teair Tart, who is both injured (ankle) and bad at football. The cornerback combo of Kristian Fulton, Jackrabbit Jenkins, and Elijah Molden (slot) all fall into the "passable" category, but the safety tandem of Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker is one of the strongest in football. In terms of the matchup, the whole "not blitzing" thing is a respectable strategy against Burrow who has carved up the blitz this season -- his PFF passing grade of 92.2 in such situations is the best in football. However, they've struggled against deep passes (23rd in DVOA) vs short passes (11th) and don't have any corners who can cover either Higgins or Chase. The defensive line finished 24th in run stop win rate, which could create an advantage of the Bengals line in the run game.
When the Titans have the ball:
Tennessee on offense is 20th in DVOA and 15th in EPA/play. Ryan Tennehill is 9th in PFF passing grades (81.0), completes 62.7% of his passes, and gains 7.0 yards per attempt. In a season that featured key injuries to several Titans weapons, Tannehill got rid of the ball quickly with short passes. His average time to throw of 2.56 seconds was 5th fastest in the league and his deep passing rate of 9.4% was 31st highest. Part of the equation is also the offensive line that finished 24th in both ESPN's pass block win rate and run block win rate metric. It's worth noting that there is some disagreement between PFF and ESPN on the line -- both sites agree that the Titans have been bad in pass protection (they're 29th in pass blocking grades), but PFF has them at a much more favorable 10th in run blocking. LT Taylor Lewan has been the one player on the line who has been excelled in both pass protection and run protection. AJ Brown is the top dog at receiver with Julio Jones, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, TE Anthony Firkser, and TE Geoff Swaim chipping in. Jones is a big name, but at 33 years old and getting used to a new system while dealing with injuries, it's safe to say he lost a step. For Jones, losing a step means you still finish 30th among all receivers in yards/route run. Derrick Henry looks set to return to action since suffering a foot injury week 8, though it's safe to say he certainly won't be 100%. The Titans are as run first as it gets -- ranking dead last in situation neutral early-down pass rate. They rank 11th in DVOA passing and 14th running, the latter stat certainly taking a hit with Henry being sidelined. The Bengals on defense are 19th in DVOA and 11th in EPA/play. The line struggled, ranking 25th in both pass rush win rate and run stop win rate. Trey Hendrickson (77 pressures) and Sam Hubbard (60) are a solid pass rushing duo, but the Bengals don't have much else to rush the passer. Hendrickson was sidelined last week with a concussion, but since he's practicing in full, I'd expect him to get cleared and play. DT Larry Ogunjobi is out for the year with a foot injury -- he was 3rd on the team with 41 pressures (and had 8 sacks), but was brutally bad in the run game, evident by his 34.8 PFF run defense grade (11th worst among defensive tackles) and 22.4% missed tackle rate (5th worst). DT DJ Reader is a strong player against the run, but the linebackers all struggle in run defense and in coverage. The secondary features strong play from outside CB Chidobe Awuzie, slot CB Mike Hilton, and S Vonn Bell. Outside corner Eli Apple has struggled throughout his career, and sits at 75th out of 121 corners in PFF grades on the season. From a matchup perspective, they were far better against #1 receivers (6th in DVOA) than #2 receivers (27th), which fits in well against a team with a clear number 1 receiver. They struggled against tight ends (24th in DVOA), but the Titans offense doesn't feature tight ends. The game has a total of 47.5, so we can expect both teams to put up points, but I like how the Bengals defense matches up against the Titans. Just keep it within 3, for the boys.