Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals hope to make it three in a row as the season turnaround continues and 2-0 against the Tennessee Titans.
Those Bengals sit at 6-4 after the Week 11 win over the Steelers. Joe Burrow and Co. have won two in a row, four of five and six of their last eight after the 0-2 start, looking strangely similar to the 5-4 club that went to the Super Bowl last year.
But before them on Sunday stands a familiar Titans team that sits on a 7-3 record. After a likewise 0-2 start, the Titans have ripped off seven wins over eight games, the only loss an overtime one to the Chiefs by a field goal.
Those Titans return Ryan Tannehill under center (65.1 percent, 10 touchdowns, four interceptions) and star running back Derrick Henry, owner of 1,010 yards on a 4.4 average with 10 scores. The offense averages just 19.3 points, but that matters little when the defense allows just 18.5.
Last January, the Bengals went into Tennessee and nabbed a 19-16 win as Burrow threw for 348 yards with a pick and the ground game averaged 3.6 yards per carry. Ja’Marr Chase led the team with 109 yards through the air. Tennessee had a hobbled Henry back from injury who averaged just 3.1 yards over 20 attempts.
Burrow threw for 350-plus and four scores in Pittsburgh without Chase a week ago, but Mixon had a good game and the Tennessee defense is quite a bit better — talent and coaching-wise — across the board.
To get a win in a game like this, the Bengals will again need big performances from the likes of Samaje Perine and Trenton Irwin or other surprise names who can make impact plays while the Titans focus on Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.
None of this has really mentioned a defense that continues to have issues in the first half. A more consistent four quarters, despite the absence of No. 1 corner Chidobe Awuzie, would make things much more comfortable.
Still, it’s hard to resist the old reliable idea that quarterbacks are the deciding factor. The Bengals have the better passer here and while the Titans overall rank well, they’re bottom three with 266.8 passing yards allowed per game.
The Bengals entered this one favored on the road and that’s a big part of it. Bank on Burrow dragging his team kicking and screaming to enough Evan McPherson attempts to win a game where there won’t be many touchdowns scored.
Prediction: Bengals 20, Titans 17