The last time the Cincinnati Bengals visited Nashville, they didn’t have the services of wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase or running back Joe Mixon, but they had a healthy Joe Burrow.
Sunday afternoon, Chase and Mixon will be two of the biggest crutches helping Burrow and his bothersome right calf get through another game.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tennessee Titans Game Preview
Burrow was a full participant at every practice this week after not going full once in the run-up to the 19-16 win against the Rams on Monday. Against Los Angeles, Chase came within one reception of tying Carl Pickens’ single-game record of 13, and Mixon scored the team’s lone touchdown.
Last year’s 20-16 win at Nissan Stadium looked a lot like the 19-16 victory there in the 2021 Divisional Round of the playoffs, minus the nine sacks Burrow took in the playoff game.
Head coach Zac Taylor, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, and Burrow all mentioned at least once how the Titans are built like an AFC North team, and the expectation is for another tight, physical, low-scoring game.
— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) September 27, 2023
A Bengals defense that was gashed for 384 rushing yards in the first two games will have to contend with a strong dose of Derrick Henry, although Anarumo’s troops have been stout against the Titans run game in each of the last two meetings, holding Henry to 38 yards on 17 carries last November, and 62 yards on 20 carries in the playoff game.
Mixon hasn’t had 20 carries in a game since Week 9 last year against Carolina, but if the Bengals, who have yet to score a first-half offensive touchdown, can figure out a way to start quicker and get a lead, they could lean on Mixon and help Burrow’s calf survive another week without a tweak.
7 Bengals-Titans Stats From Inside Edge
- Bengals running backs have gained 898 yards after the catch since the start of 2022 — fifth-most in the league.
- The Titans have allowed 2,446 yards after the catch since 2022 — fifth-most in the league.
Analysis: Burrow always has been a fast processor, and he’s been even quicker to move on to the checkdowns as he battles the calf injury. Mixon has looked good this year out in space, running over guys and making people miss.
Mixon only has 12 targets this season, but this could be a game where he could see a lot more balls, given how good the Tennessee defensive line is at pressuring the quarterback up the middle.
- The Bengals have thrown the ball 65.9% of the time this season — second-highest in the league.
- The Titans have allowed 7.7 yards per dropback — fourth-worst in the league.
Analysis: It goes against conventional thought to have a quarterback hampered by a calf injury drop back as much as Burrow has, but the Bengals are basically saying, “This is who we are, and we’re not going to change.”
The Titans have given up 12 passes of at least 20 yards this season, tied for seventh-most in the league. The Bengals only have four pass plays of 20 yards or more, which ranks next to last. Only the Patriots have fewer (three).
Whether it’s short passes underneath and having Mixon or Chase or whoever break a tackle and go, or taking some deep shots that have been scarce, this will be a good chance for the Bengals to get some explosive plays in the passing game.
- Bengals wide receivers have been targeted 82 times this season — third-most in the league.
- The Titans have allowed an average of 31.1 fantasy points per game to WRs this season — fourth-worst in the league.
Analysis: This sort of line with the first item above detailing the low number of targets for Mixon points to the possibility of a bounce-back game for Tennessee native Tee Higgins, who has struggled badly in two of the first three games this season.
Higgins had a pair of uncharacteristic drops against the Rams and finished with two catches for 21 yards on eight targets. Last year, Higgins had seven catches in his homecoming game in Nashville, with three of them coming on the opening drive.
He also had a 27-yard touchdown and a 29-yard gain on a bench route late in the fourth quarter to help the Bengals run out the final 6:07 in their four-point win.
- Ja’Marr Chase has at least five catches in 11 consecutive games, which is tied for the longest active streak in the league.
Analysis: Chase is tied with the Chargers’ Keenan Allen, and to put some perspective on how long of a streak that actually is, the Saints’ Michael Thomas has the third-longest stretch at eight games, and the Raiders’ Davante Adams is fourth with just five.
The NFL record is 36 by Antonio Brown.
With his 12 catches last week, Chase broke T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s franchise record of 10 consecutive games with at least five catches. Chase is 10 receptions shy of 200 for his career. If he gets 10 against the Titans, he’ll be the third fastest player in NFL history to reach 200.
If Ja'Marr Chase catches 10 passes Sunday, he will be tied for the third fastest player in NFL history to record 200 receptions pic.twitter.com/fxERwv4Nrp
— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) September 29, 2023
- The Titans have 17 touchdown passes since the start of 2022 — tied for second-fewest in the league.
- The Bengals have allowed 21 passing touchdowns since 2022 — tied for the fourth-fewest in the league.
Analysis: On top of the current struggles, the Titans will be without starting receiver and 2022 first-round pick Treylon Burks due to a knee injury.
How important was that #Bengals defensive performance?
Before last night, they were 1-26 when scoring fewer than 20 points in the Zac Taylor era … and 1-45 going back to 2016.
The 15-10 win at Denver in Week 15, 2021 was the outlier.
— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) September 26, 2023
Tennessee added DeAndre Hopkins in free agency, but the veteran receiver has just 14 catches on 25 targets for 153 yards through three games.
- Joe Burrow has thrown for 5,038 passing yards in 19 games since the 2022 season — sixth-best among qualified quarterbacks.
- The Titans have allowed 274.8 passing yards per game since the start of 2022 — the worst in the league.
Analysis: Another sign that Sunday could be the closest thing we’ve seen to the 2022 Cincinnati offense. The Bengals offensive line did a solid job against Aaron Donald and the Rams on Monday, and if they can keep Jeffery Simmons and the rest of the Titans defensive line from wrecking things — and if Burrow’s calf holds up — getting to that Tennessee average of 274 passing yards should be doable.
- Since the start of 2021, the Bengals are 8-2 against the spread against bottom-10 pass offenses — second-best in the league.
Analysis: Only the Cowboys have exploited poor secondaries at a better rate, going 8-1 against bottom-10 teams since 2021.
In addition to the Titans (ranked 30th against the pass), the Bengals have upcoming games against bottom-tier pass defense teams in the Cardinals (22nd) and Seahawks (31st) over the next two weeks.
Bengals vs. Titans Predictions
- David Bearman: Bengals
- Adam Beasley: Bengals
- Dalton Miller: Bengals
- Jay Morrison: Bengals
- Dallas Robinson: Bengals
For all of PFN’s Week 4 predictions, we have you covered.
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