October 6, 2022

The biggest questions for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs

Deebo Samuel has become a dual threat for the 49ers’ offense as a runner and a pass-catcher. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

After one of the most unpredictable NFL regular seasons in recent memory, that first round of the playoffs was largely predictable this past weekend. Five of the six home teams, all of them favorites, won, with only the San Francisco 49ers pulling an upset over the Dallas Cowboys.

Will that carry over to the divisional round? Let’s take a look at the biggest questions heading into each matchup.

Bengals at Titans (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)

Can the Bengals’ offensive line protect Joe Burrow?

One of the biggest debates heading into last year’s draft was whether the Bengals should select Ja’Marr Chase or offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the fifth overall pick. Chase has proven them correct with an excellent rookie season, but the offensive line nonetheless remains a problem area for Cincinnati. Burrow was sacked 51 times this season, and whether the Titans can get pressure on him to disrupt the Bengals’ potent passing attack could be a difference-maker in this game.

What to know from the NFL playoffs: The Bengals pose a major threat to the Titans

Will Derrick Henry’s return be enough to get Tennessee to the AFC championship game?

It isn’t yet a lock that Henry will play Saturday, but it appears to be trending in that direction. He was on pace for a second straight 2,000-yard season before suffering a foot injury on Oct. 31, and his presence makes a huge difference for an offense that aims to win with the running game and play-action passing attack — and whose line has struggled in pass protection.

The Bengals’ defensive line had two key injuries in the win over the Raiders on Saturday. Tackle Larry Ogunjobi will miss the game against the Titans, while Trey Hendrickson is questionable with a concussion. A heavy dose of Henry, along with play-action passing to A.J. Brown and the newly healthy Julio Jones, could be a lot for Cincinnati to overcome.