Tennessee Titans vs. Cincinnati Bengals in AFC divisional playoffs: Score prediction

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The top-seeded Tennessee Titans (12-5) will host the Cincinnati Bengals (11-7) at Nissan Stadium on Saturday in the AFC divisional round (3:30 p.m. CT, CBS), looking to secure their second conference championship berth in three years.

Tennessean sports writer Ben Arthur breaks down the game and offers his prediction:

Titans’ offense vs. Bengals’ defense

There should be a spotlight on Tennessee’s run game – and it’s not just because of the expected return of Derrick Henry.

While Cincinnati ended the regular season with the NFL’s fifth-rated run defense (102.5 rushing yards allowed/game), it lost one of its best run defenders in defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve after hurting his foot in the wild-card round against Las Vegas. Bengals standout defensive end Trey Hendrickson (team-leading 14 sacks) also landed in concussion protocol from the game, but he was a full participant in practice Wednesday and appeared to be on track to play Saturday.

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The Raiders’ Josh Jacobs had a lot of success against the Bengals’ ailing defensive front – 13 carries for 83 yards (6.3 yards per carry) – and that bodes in favor of Henry, D’Onta Foreman and the Titans’ run game, which ranked fourth in the league despite Henry missing the final nine games of the regular season.

Who has the edge? Titans

Titans’ defense vs. Bengals’ offense

Bengals star quarterback Joe Burrow has a trio of weapons on the outside in receivers Ja’Marr Chase (1,455 receiving yards in the regular season), Tee Higgins (1,091) and Tyler Boyd (828). The group is led by Chase, who set the record for receiving yards by a rookie in the Super Bowl era. Cincinnati has the league’s seventh-ranked passing attack.

So the key for the Titans’ defense is to get good pressure on Burrow, preventing him from getting the ball to his playmakers. Last season, Tennessee struggled to limit Burrow in a 31-20 loss in Cincinnati.

But the Titans' vastly improved pass rush is more equipped to do so now. The Titans tied for sixth in hurries (79), tied for ninth in sacks (43) and also ranked ninth in pressures (169) this season. Tennessee also has three players with at least eight sacks: Harold Landry (12), Denico Autry (9) and Jeffery Simmons (8.5).

The Bengals have struggled protecting Burrow, as he was the NFL’s most sacked quarterback this season (51).

Who has the edge? Titans

Score prediction

Titans 27, Bengals 24: Tennessee has the advantage at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Henry’s anticipated return in front of a capacity crowd should also provide a huge boost of energy for the Titans.

Ben Arthur covers the Tennessee Titans for The USA TODAY Network. Contact him at barthur@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @benyarthur.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee Titans vs Cincinnati Bengals in NFL playoffs: Our prediction

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