The Tennessee Titans will host the AFC Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday. The Titans are coming off their hard-earned bye week, after clinching the top spot in the conference. Meanwhile, the Bengals come in flying high, having beaten the Las Vegas Raiders in the wild card round.

The Titans were expected to fall off after they lost All-Pro running back Derrick Henry to a foot injury midway through the season. However, the team stayed together and played well down the stretch, winning four of their last five games.

For more insight on the Bengals-Titans matchup in the Divisional round of the 2022 NFL Playoffs, listen below:

Now, it sounds as though the Titans are getting Henry back this week for the matchup with the Bengals.

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Henry has not played since Week 8 in a win over the Indianapolis Colts. Despite missing more than half of the season, Henry still finished 9th in the NFL in rushing at over 900 yards.

Assuming Henry is activated and plays this week, most would assume that he would be the X-Factor. I do not believe that will be the case.

Even if Henry suits up, it’s possible he does not play a full complement of snaps. Plus the Bengals run defense is one of the better units in the league. Cincinnati’s secondary is the unit that is easier to attack. I’m sure Henry will still be effective, but I would not expect him to run away with the game.

That leads me to the actual Titans X-Factor for the game against the Bengals.

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Titans X-Factor for Divisional Round game vs. Bengals

Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry and the Titans Front Seven

When people think of the Titans, they think of Derrick Henry, AJ Brown and Julio Jones on offense. But quietly, Tennessee’s defense was one of the more impactful units in the NFL this season.

Defensive end Denico Autry finished with nine sacks this season, and defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons posted 8.5 sacks. As a whole, the Titans were top 10 in sacks this season. They were also the only team in the league with three players with eight or more sacks. Linebacker Harold Landry III led the team with 12 sacks. So, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is not afraid of bringing extra rushers.

Meanwhile, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked 51 times. That was the most in the NFL this season. He was also hit the most among all quarterbacks this year.

Admittedly, Burrow is playing excellent football right now. He has thrown 13 touchdowns without an interception over his last five games. But he also has not played a defensive front like the Titans. No matter how great a quarterback is, if you can make them uncomfortable, move them off their spot (assuming they are a pocket passer like Burrow), you can affect their play.

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In a game where Tennessee will look to get back to their bread and butter, running the football and controlling the clock, what happens each possession on the other side of the ball will prove critical. I believe the Titans front seven and their ability to get to Joe Burrow, one way or the other, will be the X-Factor.