The divisional round of the NFL playoffs features four excellent matchups.
The first game featured a defensive battle between the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans. Ja’Marr Chase recorded a big play, and Cincinnati's receivers converted first down after first down as long as Joe Burrow wasn’t getting sacked. The Bengals were held to field goals in the first half but finally scored a touchdown in the second half to gain a double-digit lead. Derrick Henry returned for the Titans. Tennessee's offense did enough to come back, but the Bengals were able to score last.
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- Snaps include plays called back due to penalties like offensive holding or defensive pass interference. The other three stats have these plays removed.
- Targets may differ from official NFL sources. The most likely discrepancy would be from a clear thrown away pass, where the NFL may give the target to the nearest receiver, while this data will not.
- Carries are only on designed plays. Quarterback scrambles won’t count for the total number of carries in the game.
- Joe Mixon: 14 carries, 54 yards, 1 TD (3 explosive runs), 6 receptions, 51 receiving yards
- A.J. Brown: 5 receptions, 142 yards, 1 TD (5.68 YPRR)
|Cincinnati Bengals||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Tennessee Titans||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Bengals relying on their stars: The Bengals' snap counts have been one of the easiest to predict all season, as they were the only team whose five starting skill players — Mixon, Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, C.J. Uzomah —played over 695 offensive snaps during the regular season. They’ve relied even more on those five in the playoffs. Boyd played over 90% of Cincinnati's offensive snaps just once in the regular season but hit that mark in both playoff games. Cincinnati only used 11 personnel in the first half which helped the receivers play even more.
All five should, at least, play significant snaps in the conference championship.
Derrick Henry‘s return: Henry returned to the Titans after missing the second half of the regular season with a foot injury. He started and received close to his normal workload. He missed a little more than a drive early on in the game, but after that point, he played the vast majority of first and second downs. He dominated the Titans' carries as usual, although D’Onta Foreman broke the longest run of the day (45 yards). Henry ranked fourth in the too early 2022 fantasy football rankings. He would rank in the top two, but the combination of age, injury, and Foreman's emergence pushed Harris down a few spots.
- Aaron Jones: 12 carries, 41 yards, 9 receptions, 129 receiving yards (38.5% threat rate)
- Davante Adams: 9 receptions, 90 yards (33.3% threat rate)
|San Francisco 49ers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Green Bay Packers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Equanimeous St. Brown||19||9||0||1|
|Patrick Taylor Jr.||1||1||0||0|
The 49ers' low offensive output: The 49ers used their offensive players in the same way as other recent games. San Francisco started the game with four three-and-outs, so everyone had fewer opportunities than usual. Deebo Samuel continued to line up in the backfield between 25-30% of his offensive snaps, which is consistent with other games over the second half of the season. Kyle Juszczyk took the majority of the third-down snaps while also playing fullback, which he did last week and for parts of the regular season. Jeff Wilson Jr. suffered an injury on the opening kickoff, but he was unlikely to play many offensive snaps anyway.
The strategy with 49ers players will be the same as always — Elijah Mitchell, Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle have high volume potential. Matchups will decide how much exposure you should have to each, but they all could be matchup winners.
Monitor Deebo Samuel‘s injury: Samuel came up limping after a number of plays in the second half of the game, including his final first-down carry that put the 49ers in field goal range. The fact that he was able to keep playing after the initial injury is a good sign he will be able to play next week, but keep an eye on the injury report.
Packers changes at wide receiver: Randall Cobb returned to the Packers after missing the last five games due to torn muscles in his abdomen. He received significant playing time because starting wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling missed the game with a back injury. He only played in three or four wide receiver sets, and Equanimeous St. Brown sometimes took his spot in those packages. Davante Adams was the only Packers wide receiver was targeted during the first 45 minutes of the game while Cobb saw his only target with four minutes left. Wide receivers across from Adams have been a clear need for a few years, and that remained apparent tonight.
Adams is the top player in free agency heading into the offseason. Valdes-Scantling will also be an unrestricted free agent. The Packers have the second-worst cap situation and will need to do a lot of salary cap gymnastics in order to get under the cap while also keeping Aaron Rodgers and Adams. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Packers used their first-round draft pick on a wide receiver.