By Kelly Reed
Las Vegas Raiders vs Cincinnati Bengals
Saturday – January 15 – 3:30 p.m.
Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati, OH
Records Before the Kick
Las Vegas Raiders (10-7, 5-3 Away)
Cincinnati Bengals (10-7, 5-4 Home)
NFL fans have been waiting all week for this! The NFL playoffs are set and Wild Card Weekend has arrived. First on the docket is a rematch from earlier this season. It’s an AFC showdown. The Raiders hosted the Bengals right before Thanksgiving. It wasn’t much of a match with the Bengals coming out on top 32-13. Mother Nature won’t have much impact in Cincinnati with the temperature hovering around 31 and being partly cloudy. Perhaps the kicking game might have to deal with some wind issues. Let’s take a look at what these teams bring to the table…
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders have endured a much publicized season of turmoil yet their resiliency has paid off with a #5 seed in the playoffs. The Raiders are hot. They’ve won four in a row heading into the postseason including a Week 18 OT win or go home victory over the San Diego Chargers. I love how animated Raiders QB Derek Carr gets during games. He brings passion and leadership to his offense. The team’s fate rests on his shoulders and he understands that it’s his responsibility to make smart decisions and manage the offense. The run game goes through Josh Jacobs. He has the ability to gain the tough yards inside and will on occasion break off a decent run of 20+ yards. He’s typically good for a few passes out of the backfield to move the chains. For the Raiders offense to continue to be hot, Carr needs WR Hunter Renfrow to deliver in critical passing downs as well as TE Darren Waller. This duo can create some matchup issues with the Bengals secondary that the Raiders need to capitalize on. In order for interim coach Rich Bisaccia to leave the field victorious, the Raiders defense will need to perform like they did in Week 18. The d-line has to apply pressure to Bengals QB Joe Burrow on passing downs and force him into errant throws or getting rid of the ball. Therefore my x-factor for the Raiders is pass rushing stud Max Crosby. If he can create some mayhem and the linebackers can do their job with the run game, the Raiders could pull off the road win!
The Bengals are ready to run through the jungle with a huge playoff win. I keep seeing memes about how the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since texting has been around. Bengals history could be reaching a turning point today with a victory. The Bengals are led by none other than the “Bayou Bengal” himself QB Joe Burrow. Burrow will be ready for his first playoff game. He sat out last week to rest his knee. Prior to that he had back-to-back games of having over 440 yards through the air to go with four touchdowns. In other words, Burrow is red hot. Joe Mixon is the man with the rock. He has over 1,200 rushing yards this season and 13 TDs to boot. If he needs a breather, the Bengals will look to hand the ball off to Samaje Perine. As the season progressed, Burrow developed better rapport with TE C.J. Uzomah to the point where he was receiving 5-6 targets per game. Look for Uzomah to be the safety valve Burrow needs against the Raiders defense. When a big play needs to be made on a pass play, Burrow will target WR Ja’Marr Chase. He’s been targeted about eight times per game this season. The Raiders can’t sleep on Tee Higgins or Tyler Boyd. They can make defenses pay for ignoring them. Unfortunately for the Bengals defense they’ll be without the services of Josh Tupou. If the Bengals defense keeps the Raiders receivers in front of them, this game could be over by half.
Everyone thinks the Bengals have this in the bag and that it’s an easy win. ESPN shows the Bengals with a 67.5% chance of winning. I think the Raiders keep the game close. I see this being a tight game in the first half and the Bengals taking advantage of a turnover late in the third quarter to put them up by 12. The Raiders will get a touchdown in the final few minutes to bring them within 5 but time will run out on the Raiders season.
Bengals – 27
Raiders – 22