The Tennessee Titans have turned themselves into one of the more consistent teams in the NFL over the past half decade under head coach Mike Vrabel‘s leadership.
Well, they’ve consistently had good talent across the board, that talent takes a big hit at the games most important position: quarterback. Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is good enough to be a game manager, but he’s not the kind of player who’s going to put the Titans over the top in pursuit of a championship.
The Cincinnati Bengals take it a step further, however, as they have the one missing piece that Tennessee lacks: Joe Burrow, the franchise quarterback needed to elevate their level or play from consistency to contention.
The Titans are doing what they can to reach Cincinnati’s level. They haven’t been bad enough to pick first overall like Cincinnati did when they acquired Burrow (and, apparently, haven’t seen a quarterback prospect, enticing enough to go all in and trade up for) so they’ve elected to take a more moderate approach, picking up quarterbacks like Malik Willis and Will Levis on Day 2 of each of the past two drafts in the hope that they can find a diamond in the rough later on.
Watching the Titans and the Bengals face-off will be a fascinating matchup because of the contrast between the two teams.
Here’s a look at how each team stacks up on the field ahead of their matchup on Sunday, October 1. We’ll begin with Tennessee, who will serve as the host team in this contest.
A Look at the Opposition: Tennessee Titans
One factor that could play out in Tennessee’s favor is the way that they like to execute their offense. The Titans favor a run heavy approach with superstar running back Derrick Henry, and this could turn into a game of keep away if all goes right for Tennessee as they try to keep Burrow off the field for as long as possible by pounding the rock down Cincinnati’s throat.
Six of the Titans losses last season came by less than one score. They’re at their best when they bring their opponent down to their level, and if they’re able to get out in front early and wear Cincinnati down, they could hang on long enough to pull off the upset. If they get stuck trying to catch up to the Bengals, though. they’re going to get run out of town pretty quickly.
In many ways, the Titans’ outlook for this game depends on who they trot out at quarterback. It seems like the writing is on the wall for Tannehill after Tennessee picked quarterbacks high in the past two years, but Willis and Levis are far from proven commodities. They’re both boom or bust prospects who could make a game breaking play (or a facepalm inducing mistake) at a moment's notice. Tannehill raises Tennessee’s floor, but he doesn’t raise their ceiling.
If the Titans decide to start one of the young guns, this is the type of game I’d stay away from when it comes to betting. If they go with Tannehill, you have a much better idea of what you’re going to get. Win Big and Elevate Your Game-Day Experience with Bet365 Ohio's Insights and Analysis when it comes to the upcoming showdown.
A Look at the Hometown Darlings: Cincinnati Bengals
The state of Ohio may have two NFL teams for residents to decide between rooting for—the Bengals and the Cleveland Browns—but Burrow and the Bengals made that choice a lot easier during their magical 2021 season, taking the buckeye state and the nation by storm with their exciting crop of young players. The Bengals are firmly in win now mode as Burrow enters the fourth year of his rookie contract: he’s going to get a big boost in income when the Bengals activate his fifth year option next offseason, and there will be less money to go around to flesh out the rest of the roster. That gives them all the more incentive to make the most of this season.
Cincinnati’s high powered offense is capable of going blow for blow with just about any team in the league. Their defense, while shaky, has enough play makers that they can change the outlook of a game on a dime with a much needed turnover, keeping them in the game long enough for Burrow to work his magic.
One story line to keep an eye on while we wait for the game to take place is Burrow’s health: he suffered a calf injury earlier in training camp, and there are questions asked as to whether it could cause him to miss time or be limited on the playing field.
If Burrow is still dealing with the after effects of the injury, Tennessee could get a leg up on the competition.
What’s the Verdict?
Mike Vrabel is a plucky, disciplined head coach who is always going to have his team ready to play no matter the amount of talent that the Titans’ front office has given him. He has established himself as one of the better head coaches in the league over the past five seasons, and much of that reputation comes from his ability to make something out of nothing, dragging his teams kicking and screaming to the playoffs despite shaky play at quarterback.
The Bengals are almost certainly going to win this game, and they’re likely going to be heavy favorites in doing so, especially if the first month of the season doesn’t go well for Tennessee as they figure out their quarterback situation.
With that being said, the Bengals have struggled in situations like this in the past, like when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in week one of the 2022 season: they should’ve blown the doors off Pittsburgh, but instead they allowed a less talented team to hang around long enough to steal a win.
If you’re looking to bet on the outright outcome of the game, take the Bengals. If you want to bet on the point spread, the Titans might be an enticing option, especially if they’re listed to lose by a heavy margin.