The 2023 season could be out of hand sooner than later for the Titans.
Tennessee is coming off of an embarrassing 27-3 beatdown at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, in which Myles Garrett had his way with their offensive line and Deshaun Watson finally got right. Now sitting at 1-2, the Titans continue their AFC North season series with the Bengals, a team that has had the Titans’ number the past 3 seasons. For our full preview of the game, check out The Hot Read Podcast!
Here are 10 stats that you need to know for Bengals at Titans in this week’s Titans Ten:
1. A Sharp’s Dream
Mike Vrabel once again finds himself as an underdog for the 4th straight week, this time only getting 2.5 points on most sportsbooks. The line that once favored the Titans before the beginning of the week has now shifted to favoring the 1-2 Bengals on the heels of a primetime victory over the Rams.
However, most sharps are once again backing Mike Vrabel and his unparalleled record when coaching as an underdog. In 46 career games as a dog, Mike Vrabel is 23-23 straight up and 27-18-1 against the spread. He’s also the only coach in the league with a winning record as a home dog straight up. These two AFC teams have played each other close the past 3 seasons, likely a reason that backing Vrabel is a popular play this week.
Mike Vrabel has been historically good to start the season, but is never better than he is in October.
Since 2020, the Titans have the best record in the league during spooky season. Their 10-2 record over the past 3 years is a game better than the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills. With the Titans currently sitting at 1-2, it will take another great October for Mike Vrabel and his squad to get the season back on track.
3. A Divisional Mismatch
Many weeks it seems as if Mike Vrabel has the coaching edge, but that perception may soon change when facing a certain division.
The Titans will once again face off against another AFC North opponent this week. Mike Vrabel has been less than stellar against AFC North teams, recording a 2-7 record in 9 games against the division. He’ll look to get back to his winning ways against the North in his second of four such bouts this year.
4. Blockers Beware
It’s no secret that the Titans’ offensive line this season has been…subpar. And maybe that’s putting it too nicely. With their cornerstone left guard Peter Skoronski still unable to play after having an appendectomy, the Titans line has seemingly deteriorates each week he’s absent.
Tennessee’s front five through three weeks has been hindering the offensive potential of the team, allowing a sack on 36% of all drives this season. That’s good for the second-highest rate in the league. It will be a real test again this Sunday against Trey Hendrickson and a Bengals front seven who have found their groove on defense over the past two weeks.
5. Two Clutch QBs
When ranking quarterbacks, many different defining factors are used to differentiate the 32 field generals in the league. But perhaps a QB’s “clutch factor” has been the most prominently talked-about quality in the past few seasons. Most would think of Joe Burrow as being one of, if not the clutch quarterback in the NFL. But what if there was a QB in the AFC South just as clutch?
Enter Ryan Tannehill, who has been up and down in his first three games of 2023. To the surprise of some, Ryan Tanehill’s clutch performance in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers is one of the many times he has performed in big-time situations. In fact, it was the 8th time in his career that Tannehill had a passer rating of at least 120 and led the offense on a game-winning drive, five of which have been in two-tone blue. Tannehill is tied for the league-best in this category since 2019. Tied with who? None other than Joe Burrow.
6. Titans Turning Special Teams Into Folklore
A big upgrade this season for the Titans has come in the special teams department. Coming into the year, Craig Aukerman had found his stud punter in Ryan Stonehouse but lacked stability in the kicking game.
Enter Nick Folk, who has been as reliable as can be thus far. Folk, who earned Week 2 AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, has been a perfect 8/8 on PATs and field goals through three weeks.
It’s been a welcome sight for a Titans team that has struggled to find stable production in the last couple of years. The last time it was this consistent? 2015, when Ryan Succop started the year 24/24 on PATs and Field Goals, missing the first in Week 9. In recent history, this Titans and Bengals matchup has seen a lot of kicks, so don’t be surprised by a big day once again for Folk.
7. An Offensive Air Raid
The Titans’ Week 4 matchup will pit some of the best receivers in the league against each other and give them the opportunity to take advantage of secondaries that have their question marks. The Bengals have been sliced and diced through the air so far this season, with a league-leading 10.0 air yards per pass according to ESPN Stats & Info. Could a big DeAndre Hopkins game be in the cards on Sunday?
On the other side of the field, the Titans have allowed quarterbacks to feast through the air nearly just as much, allowing 9.7 air yards per pass. Facing the three-headed monster that is Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, the struggling Titans secondary will have their work cut out for them.
8. Equal Offenses?
When thinking about these two AFC opponents, their offensive capability would be considered by most to be on opposite ends of the spectrum.
However, these two offenses have been very similar through three weeks. The Titans, despite their abysmal play in Week 3, have gained 720 yards on the season. The Bengals have only been 13 yards better, gaining a total of 733 yards on the season!
In terms of efficiency, the Titans and Bengals both own a successful play rate of 32%, with the Titans being just 0.7 percent better. It will be interesting to see which offense gets on track this Sunday in a must-win game for both teams.
9. A Different Burrow
Ever since Joe Burrow graced the city of Cincinnati with his presence, the Bengals offense has looked like a completely different team than in decades past. The combination of Burrow with Higgins and Chase has allowed this team to attack early and often down the field.
However, the nagging calf injury Burrow sustained in early August has limited his ability to make downfield plays this year. Through three games, Burrow is averaging just 2.5 air yards per attempt on his throws. Assuming the calf is not back to full strength, the Titans may be lucky as Burrow will once again have to hold back on the explosives.
10. King Henry On His Way To Canton
Derrick Henry is undoubtedly on his way to the Hall of Fame. The 29-year-old running back has looked like he still has juice this year, and through three games when the offensive line gives him space he is showing few signs of slowing down.
Henry will once again have another chance to break records this weekend. If King Henry runs for more than 77 yards on Sunday, he will pass Earl Campbell as the 2nd leading franchise rusher all-time. Henry can also become the 3rd player in franchise history to rush for more than 8,500 yards with a single team if he gains only 2 yards on the day. It would also make the Titans the first team ever to have 3 players rush for over 8,500 yards for a single franchise, joining Earl Campbell and Eddie George.