The Worksheet, a fantasy football overview by Rich Hribar, breaking down everything you need to know for the Divisional Round Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans Saturday afternoon game.

21.75Implied Total25.25
21.916Points All./Gm20.86
63.719Opp. Plays/Gm61.18
5.87Off. Yards/Play5.122
5.520Def. Yards/Play5.417
36.74%4Opp. Rush %35.42%2
63.26%29Opp. Pass %64.58%31

Against the Spread

Titans: 10-7
Bengals: 11-7
Titans ATS at Home: 6-3
Bengals ATS Away: 6-2
Titans ATS as Favorite: 4-5
Bengals ATS as Underdog: 6-3

Game Overview

The Divisional Round kicks off with the only game that is not a rematch from the regular season. Also, a fun note for grins, the only teams with a winning record that lost to the Jets during the season.  

The Bengals ended a 31-year drought between their last playoff by keeping the Raiders out of the end zone to end the game last weekend and winning 26-19. Ending that drought, Cincinnati will look to overcome another hurdle in franchise history this weekend as they have never won a road playoff game (0-7). 

This game features one of the league’s most explosive offenses and one that has struggled to generate big plays. The Bengals are sixth in the league in rate of offensive plays to gain 20 or more yards (once every 14.7 snaps on offense) while leading the NFL in touchdowns scored from outside of the red zone (21). The Titans were on the other end of the spectrum, generating an explosive gain on offense once every 24.6 offensive snaps (30th) with seven touchdowns (23rd) on those plays. 

Despite entering the postseason 15th in the league in EPA per play and 20th in offensive DVOA (lowest of the remaining seeds) the Titans have done nothing but persevere and come through all season long as they earned the top seed in the AFC. 

The Titans have a league’s best 8-3 (.727) record against teams that posted a winning record in 2021. We also know a ton of their offensive inefficiency can be traced to the injuries they were forced to overcome this season. 

The Tennessee offense played just 120 offensive snaps (10.6%) with all of Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and Julio Jones on the field during the regular season. On those snaps, they averaged 6.9 yards per play and 0.07 EPA per play. With all three of their best offensive players missing various points of the season, they played 312 snaps (27.5%) with none of those three stars on the field and averaged just 4.0 yards per play and -0.13 EPA per play on those plays. The Titans are expected to have all three available for Saturday. 

Despite the strong record against winning teams in 2021, the Bengals actually have posted a better record (5-2) against 2021 playoff teams than the Titans (4-3), albeit by just one game. 


Joe Burrow: After a 5-4 start, the Bengals have won six of their past nine games with one throwaway loss in Week 18 resting the majority of their roster. A big pivot to an aggressive mindset offensively has aided their cause to close the season. Putting the ball in Burrow’s hands, the Bengals have thrown the ball on 62.8% of their first and second down snaps outside of the fourth quarter in each of their past three games with Burrow under center. Prior to that point, the Bengals had thrown the ball on 51.8% of those early down snaps. Burrow has rewarded that faith, completing 51-of-68 (75.0%) of those passes for 635 yards (9.3 yards per attempt) with five touchdowns and zero interceptions. 

We should see the Bengals remain aggressive on offense here against a Tennessee defense that is second in the NFL in passing rate faced this season and second in passing rate faced over expectation. They are a pass funnel defense by nature, allowing just 3.9 yards per rushing play (fourth) and allowing 3.7 yards per rush on first downs (third). 

We have mentioned Burrow’s splits in destroying the blitz this season often. There is a reason that his top four scoring games this season came against teams that are top-10 in the NFL in blitz rate. 

Like the Raiders, Tennessee is another team that will drop back and play coverage against Burrow. The Titans blitz on 19.9% of dropbacks, which is 28th in the league and the second-lowest rate of the remaining playoff teams. Burrow was still able to post a sturdy 17.6 fantasy points and we are swerving into the Bengals having to remain aggressive here. While the Titans play a brand of football that may prevent Burrow from having a 30-point ceiling, the passing volume against a defense that ranked 20th in yards allowed per attempt (7.2 Y/A) and 23rd in yards allowed per completion (11.4 yards) still present an opportunity to have a high floor with plenty of inherent upside. 

Ryan Tannehill: Tannehill closed the regular season with his best game of the season, completing 23-of-32 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns on his way to a season-high 27.3 fantasy points. 

While Tannehill had a disappointing season through the lens of fantasy expectations, there were plenty of limitations to overcome based on available weaponry as touched upon in the open. Tannehill had just 65 dropbacks (10.9%) all season with all of Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and Julio Jones on the field, but he averaged 9.4 yards per pass attempt on that small sample. 147 of his dropbacks (24.6%) came with none of the big three on the field with Tannehill averaging 5.2 Y/A on those snaps. Tannehill had just 182 dropbacks (30.4%) with both Brown and Jones on the field while averaging 8.2 Y/A on those dropbacks. Without either of those top wideouts on the field, Tannehill had 187 dropbacks (31.3%) and was able to post just 5.5 Y/A on those opportunities.

The Bengals come into Saturday as a pass funnel themselves as noted in the opening table. They also do have a number of injuries on their defensive line that are still question marks that could aid things. All of Trey Hendrickson, Larry Ogunjobi, Mike Daniels, and Josh Tupou may end up unavailable for Saturday. 

That also can keep the passing volume inherently low for Tannehill if the Titans are able to run the ball effectively. We always have that volume cap with Tannehill as he averaged 35.2 dropbacks per game, which was 23rd in the league. That will force us to rely on his efficiency splits with a full offense to remain steady and make him a more boom-or-bust fantasy option, but the Bengals did allow 15.3 passing points per game (23rd) while Tannehill also comes with rushing equity to offer appeal if playing the upside angle. 

Running Back

Joe Mixon: A big part of why the Bengals have gotten more aggressive also has to partially be attributed to how poorly they have run the ball to close the season. Mixon has rushed 101 times for 329 yards (3.3 YPC) over the past six weeks with game-highs of 65 yards and 3.8 YPC over that span. Mixon still offers plenty of volume (18 or more touches in 10 straight games) while he has at least four receptions in each of his past three games, the first time all season that he has caught multiple passes in three straight games all season. 

Mixon has volume and touchdown equity, but both will be needed here. Tennessee posts a formidable task in expecting the recent rushing efficiency to flip. The Titans allowed 3.8 yards per carry to backs (seventh) and 9.6 rushing points per game (second) to running backs while they also were stingy through the air, allowing 8.8 receiving points to the position (eighth). 

Derrick Henry: We will have to officially wait on Henry being activated after suffering a Jones Fracture back in Week 8. He started practicing in Week 18 and the Titans caught an extra week with the bye to provide more runway in expecting him to return. 

Prior to his injury, no back was used more than Henry. He averaged 29.6 touches per game with a low of 20. His 237 touches were the third most through eight games of any NFL season. Although it was not among the top of the position, Henry was also averaging a career-high 2.3 catches per game. We should have trepidation that Henry will return to that lofty of a workload and should expect D’Onta Foreman to get snaps as well as Dontrell Hilliard and Jeremy McNichols in the passing game. But Henry also is a unique player in his own right to completely disregard, even coming off an 11-week absence. If he is responding well in-game, there is still an outcome where Henry touches the ball a ton.

With Henry in the lineup, the Titans were eighth in the NFL in EPA per carry despite being 24th in success rate (38.1%) compared to 19th in EPA per carry and 26th in success rate without him (37.6%). Henry had plenty of strikeouts on his carries, but his overall rushing upside on a per play basis was a significant difference compared to the reserves. 

The Bengals have struggled to defend backs down the line, allowing 5.5 yards per carry to backs over their final five games this season. They also have question marks on the availability of Trey Hendrickson, Larry Ogunjobi, Mike Daniels, and Josh Tupou up front this Saturday. Both Daniels and Ogunjobi appear to be trending doubtful early in the week but keep tabs on things to close the week. 

Wide Receiver

Ja’Marr Chase: Chase spilled his historic rookie season right into the postseason, catching 9-of-12 targets for 116 yards against the Raiders while adding 23 yards rushing. Chase became the seventh rookie wideout to post a 100-yard game in the Wild Card Round. 

As a byproduct of facing the second-highest passing rate and third-most pass attempts per game, no team faced more targets per game to opposing wideouts (22.9) than the Titans. Getting a volume spike for an elite player is always something of significant interest while the Titans were 24th in points allowed per game (16.9) to opposing WR1 options. 

A.J. Brown: As much of an impact that Brown’s availability had on Tannehill and the offense in bulk, his own fantasy production was all over the place due to the low volume of the offense. Brown trailed only Antonio Brown, Cooper Kupp, and Davante Adams in target rate per route (29.1%), but also ran 28.5 routes per game in his full games (62nd among wide receivers). That led to Brown having some low-level target weeks and boom-or-bust fantasy games. Brown ended the season with three WR1 scoring weeks, but also nine games as a WR3 or lower. He showcased his ability to take over a game with games of 8-133-1, 10-155-1, and 11-145-1 this year, but also another eight games with fewer than 50 yards receiving. Brown went from 16 targets in his massive Week 16 return to the lineup, but also just five and six the next two games. 

The Bengals were modest against opposing WR1, allowing 14.1 points per game (13th) despite facing the sixth-most targets per game (8.8) to those lead wideouts with only Davante Adams hitting 100-yards against them among those. Brown has the upside, scoring ability, and team target share to deliver a strong week, but his upside is tethered to the overall passing volume of the Titans on a week-to-week basis.

Tee Higgins: Saturday went about the same for Higgins as the first time he faced the Raiders. Catching 1-of-4 targets for 10 yards, Higgins posted his two worst games of the season against Las Vegas, catching 2-of-7 targets for 25 yards in those contests. They were also his two lowest rates in target share on the season. Higgins does not have the rock solid target share on a team level and per route as mentioned above with A.J. Brown, but he was a similar fantasy scorer. We know there is high upside here. Higgins posted three top-five scoring weeks on the year, but those were also his only WR1 scoring weeks on the season. Three of his past four games have seen him post single-digit output for fantasy purposes. 

We take on the floor weeks since he is on the field a ton (88% route rate) attached to a great quarterback in an offense that is increasing aggressiveness and is in a particular spot to throw the ball heavily here. As mentioned with Chase, the Titans faced the most targets per game to wideouts while ranking 23rd in yards allowed per target (8.2 yards) with a 5.1% touchdown rate (18th) allowed to the position. 

Tyler Boyd: Catching 4-of-5 targets for 26 yards and a touchdown, Boyd extending his touchdown streak to a career-high four games in a row. Boyd is only averaging 5.1 targets per game over his past seven games (15.5% target rate), but that scoring streak has kept him afloat. The Titans also represent another favorable matchup for Boyd as they allowed a league-high 15.5 points per game to opposing wide receivers out of the slot while allowing 15 touchdowns (31st) to those wideouts. That includes allowing a 7-113-2 line to the ghost of Danny Amendola when we last saw them on the field. 

Julio Jones: Battling through a tough season limited by hamstring issues, Jones was finally a full-time player in Week 18 again for the first time since Week 9. In the regular-season finale, Jones ran a route on 84.9% of the team dropbacks, catching 5-of-9 targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. His 28.1% target share was a season high while the touchdown was his first of the year. Jones has hit 60 yards just once over his first season with the Titans, but his usage to close the season was a positive note that he is as healthy as he has been since the start of the season. 

The Bengals were no defensed to hide from on the back end, allowing a 65.7% catch rate (27th) and 8.0 yards per target (18th) to opposing wide receivers.

Tight End

C.J. Uzomah: Uzomah was a hit in the Wild Card Round, catching all six of his targets for 64 yards and his first touchdown since Week 7. Uzomah has now received 4-7 targets in each of his past six games with at least 15% of the team targets in all six of those weeks. The Titans were tough on tight ends in the regular season, allowing 5.6 yards per target (second), a 60.9% catch rate (fourth), and a 2.7% touchdown rate to the position.

Anthony Firkser: A Tennessee tight end has more than four catches in just one game this year while the crew has produced a game-high of 56 yards from an individual, but that game did come from Firkser in Week 18, who has shown a little bit of pulse by finding the end zone in each of his past two games. 

Firkser still has not a route on 50% of the dropbacks in a game since Week 12, so he still takes a step of faith as a fantasy option, but if looking for any matchup appeal, the Bengals have allowed a 72.7% catch rate (26th), 8.2 yards per target (27th), and a 6.1% touchdown rate (22nd) to the position.

More Divisional Round Fantasy breakdowns from The Worksheet:

CIN at TEN | SF at GB | LAR at TB | BUF at KC