NASHVILLE (WCMH) — The Bengals improbable season continues Saturday when Cincinnati takes on the No. 1 seed Tennessee Titans at 4:30 p.m. EST at Nissan Stadium.

Despite being to the Super Bowl twice, the Bengals have never won a playoff game on the road and are coming off its first postseason victory since 1991 after defeating the Raiders 26-19 on a game-winning interception on 4th and goal by linebacker Jermaine Pratt.

Here are three keys to a Bengals’ win over the Titans to make the franchise’s first AFC Championship Game since 1988:

Jump out to an early lead

Tennessee thrives on managing the clock and do so by running effectively. The Titans get Derrick Henry back for this game after being out since Oct. 31 with a foot injury and the Bengals are without their run-stopping, do-it-all defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. 

The way to throw off the Titans’ offensive game plan is to score early and make them play from behind. Cincinnati would much rather be in a position where Ryan Tannehill has to defeat them through the air than trying to slow down Henry and the Titans’ formidable offensive line.

That’s easier said than done. Only four teams have managed to score 30 or more points against the Titans’ vaunted defense, which ranks sixth in the NFL in points allowed per game (20.8). Two of those 30-point games were in the first two weeks of the season and Tennessee has been exponentially better since September. 

The way to exploit the Titans is attacking their secondary, which ranks in the bottom third of the league in pass yards allowed per game. That’s welcome news for a Bengals offense that ranks 7th in pass yards per game and has Joe Burrow in the midst of a record-breaking stretch. 

In his last three games, Burrow has thrown for 1,215 yards and 10 touchdowns without an interception. He also has a passer rating of 129.9 in his last five games. No quarterback in NFL history has ever had a better passer rating during a five-game stretch. 

Joe Mixon is a top-five running back in the NFL in yards this season, but he was slowed down by the Raiders talented run defense last week and that will likely happen again against Tennessee.

Give Burrow some time

Notice this doesn’t say give Burrow time. Cincinnati’s offensive line allowed the third-most sacks in the NFL this season and the second-year quarterback is constantly under pressure. The good news is he’s one of the most talented quarterbacks when it comes to pocket awareness and being able to evade the first rusher or two. 

This comes down mostly to the performance of backup offensive tackle Isiah Prince who allowed seven quarterback pressures on 36 pass-block snaps, which translates to a fail rate of nearly 20%, per Pro Football Focus.

If Prince can buy Burrow more time, with minimal assignment collapses, then Burrow should be able to march Cincy down field.

But marching down the field isn’t enough. The Bengals settled for four field goals last week and red zone offense has been a recurring issue with Cincinnati, ranking 19th in the NFL. That’s not terrible but it’s also not good enough to beat a team like the Titans. Cincinnati’s had a full week to address the problem, so only time will tell if they’ve found a solution.

Make Ryan Tannehill uncomfortable

Tennessee isn’t much better at protecting their quarterback than the Bengals. Although run protection is  stellar, the Titans’ pass protection leaves much to be desired allowing 2.8 sacks per game, 7th-worst in the NFL.

Cincinnati received great news this week when defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who leads the team in sacks, was cleared from concussion protocol and is all set for Saturday’s game.

Titans’ right tackle David Quessenberry is tied for the most sacks allowed in the regular season (11) and is the only Tennessee offensive lineman considered above average by PFF. The average pressure rate for an offensive lineman in the regular season was 4.6% and only the Titans center, Ben Jones, was below that mark.

Tennessee has plenty of offensive weapons on the perimeter starting with A.J. Brown but if Ryan Tannehill doesn’t have time to find him or check it down, then it won’t matter who he has open.