The Las Vegas Raiders travel across the country to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in the first of seven playoff games in the inaugural Super Wild Card Weekend at 4:30 EST on Saturday. According to the football punditry, the Raiders were not supposed to be here.
The Bengals won the first matchup 32-13 on the road.
Can the Raiders surprise again and upset the Joe Burrow-led squad in Cincinnati?Those pirates from the desert of Nevada just keep coming up aces, much to the apparent dismay of the collective football punditry that seems to want no part of them in the playoffs. Rex Ryan on the ESPN program Get Up! Went as far as to say that the world "was being robbed of being able to watch Justin Herbert in the playoffs…" apparently, Derek Carr, who has a better completion percentage and yards per pass average than Herbert, just doesn't blow his skirt up in some way. Since a brutal loss at the Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders have reeled off "back-to-back-to-back-to-back" wins (most of which they were dogs in) to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Up until the Chargers game in that last run at the end of the season, the Vegas squad was winning games ugly with a tough defense (especially against the run) and a resurgent running game with just enough sprinkled in from Carr and the receiving corps (led mainly by Hunter Renfrow) to win close games.
Against the Chargers, the defense got shredded by the passing game and was so weak that they gave up multiple first downs on fourth down, including one of more than twenty yards that went for the equalizing touchdown that put the game into overtime. The Raiders got three sacks in the game and pressured Herbert, but he escaped the packet multiple times and hurt the Raiders deep down the field on passing plays. The Chargers generated 440 yards on offense, and 355 of that came via the pass. The Raiders offense only generated 346 total yards but was very balanced and gained an impressive 174 yards rushing. Josh Jacobs had a great day on the ground and led the team with 132 yards and 1 TD, and backup QB Marcus Mariota, who is being used more and more in a Taysom Hill-like role for the raiders ran four times for 23 yards and converted a couple of critical first downs. Hunter Renfrow was lethal in the red zone and caught two short touchdowns.
The Raiders defense is very good at limiting long plays and ranks in the top ten in pass yards allowed per attempt, run yards per attempt, and total yards per play but still give up 26 points per game to rank in the bottom third of the league and allow the most scoring in the Red Zone by any team in the NFL at almost 82% of the time.
The Raiders on offense generate an impressive amount of yards per game but are pathetic in the Red Zone on offense and only score about 50% of the time and rank 27th in that crucial offensive category. When the Raiders faced the Bengals, THE GAME WAS COMPETITIVE EARLY, AND THE Raiders held the lead 6-3 in the middle of the second quarter and had limited Cincinnati to less than 40 total yards on offense. A horrible call against the Raider extended a late second-quarter Cincinnati drive that gave them the lead at the half 10-6. The Raider defense continued to play tough into the late third quarter, limiting another drive to a Bengal field goal. After another Cincy field goal, the Raiders cut the lead to three 16-13 in the 4th. Then, after a Jamarr Chase TD, the game was still in reach when Derek Carr threw a terrible interception. Then Carr turned it over again later with a strip-sack fumble recovered and ran back by the Bengals, and the score ultimately was a lopsided 32-13.
The Cincinnati Bengals, in the playoffs for the first time since 2015, but their playoff history is less than inspiring – can they break the string and get a playoff win?One of the great storylines of the NFL Season has been the emergence of the connection between quarterback Joe Burrow and his teammate now and teammate from LSU Ja'Marr Chase. If they can continue their pace, the duo could be among the NFL greats such as Montana to Rice or Manning to Harrison, among others.
Chase has 13 touchdowns this year and trails only Cooper Kupp in that receiving category. His 1455 yards puts him in the top 5 receivers in the league in that category as well. What makes this even more impressive is he is getting those stats with only 81 receptions.
Ten receivers in the NFL have more than 100 receptions, and yet he leads the vast majority of them in touchdowns and yards. Thanks to playing like this, the Bengals offense is third in the league in points per play at .44 and ranks seventh in scoring offense at 27 points per game. They also rank number one in the league in yards per pass attempt. Joe Burrow has been sacked a lot 55 times, and the Bengals give up amongst the most sacks in the league. The Bengals' prolific offense has led to some impressive wins on the season, including a recent signature win over the powerhouse Kansas City Chiefs 34-31. The Bengals lost to the Browns to end the season but were resting many of the key players, including Burrow, who got his knee banged up against Kansas City.
The Bengals have had an excellent season and posted some impressive wins, but they also lost a couple of bad games. They got blown out by the Chargers (who the Raiders just defeated) 41-22 a few weeks ago, and earlier in the season, they managed to lose to the Jets 34-31. The Bengals defense is just average and ranks 17th in overall defense and scoring against at 21 points per game. They are tough against the run, ranking 7th but poor against the pass, ranking 27th in the NFL. The Bengals D ranks 11th in sacks with 40 on the season.
- Raiders are 4-1 ATS in their last five games after allowing more than 350 total yards in their previous game.
- Raiders are 4-1 ATS in their last five games as an underdog
- In their previous seven games, the Raiders were 7-0 ATS after more than 150 yards rushing in their last game.