The Cincinnati Bengals will host the Las Vegas Raiders at 4:30 p.m. EST at Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday. This game will open up the NFL’s Super Wild Card Weekend. The Bengals are in search of their first playoff win since 1991, while the Raiders are looking for a win in the postseason for the first time since the 2002 AFC Championship Game.
Cincinnati Bengals Outlook:
Other than the Cleveland Browns game where they sat most of their starters the Bengals’ passing game had started to come alive. After the first game against the Raiders was when Tee Higgins started to become more active on the offense averaging 107.5 yards per game over that stretch. With Higgins now involved he should see more than the three targets he did in the first matchup. This is something the Bengals have done well with is testing the cornerback depth on teams with Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tyler Boyd. In the previous four games Joe Burrow had played in he has had zero interceptions to 11 touchdowns. When teams limit Burrow and the passing attack they always have Joe Mixon to fill back on like in the first game, the Raiders limited Burrow to 148 passing yards but Mixon was there for 30 carries and 123 rushing yards. On the defensive side of things, the Bengals defense is great at getting pressure and they have done so with Trey Hendrickson who has 45 pressures and 14 sacks, along with Sam Hubbard who has 39 pressures and 7.5 sacks.
The area the Raiders can take advantage of the Bengals’ defense is their passing defense. They have been great at stopping passes in the red zone as they have allowed only 26 touchdowns which is the sixteenth best, but they have allowed the seventh-most passing yards with 4,222. Darren Waller gave the Bengals trouble last time as well as he had seven receptions for 116 yards. Protecting Burrow has also continued to be a struggle for this team as the offensive line has allowed 55 sacks and a pressure percentage of 24.2%. While they are getting Quinton Spain back at guard, they will be missing their right tackle Riley Reiff which could play a huge factor in this game.
Las Vegas Raiders Outlook:
The Raiders offense has struggled at points this off-season but it seems they have gotten back in a groove during last Sunday Night’s 35-32 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers where they gained 346 total yards including a season-high 174 yards on the ground. The Raiders are rolling right now after winning 4 in a row down the stretch to secure a playoff berth, mainly in part to the team’s defense and star kicker Daniel Carlson (who has three game-winning kicks in the last four games). In those four games, the team has held opponents to 274 ypg, 19.8 ppg, and almost neutralized the run game only allowing 78.5 yards per game. The Raiders secondary has struggled at times this season but over the past few games become a strong unit while missing starting safety Johnathan Abram and starting corner Trayvon Mullen. The Raiders will have the clear advantage in the trenches while on defense. The Bengals offensive line, as mentioned is one of the worst in the league averaging a 24.2% pressure rate and allowing 55 sacks. The Raiders have one of if not the best EDGE duo in the league this season with Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. Crosby ended the year with 101 pressures, 72 QB hurries, 20 QB Knockdowns, 8 sacks, and 30 QB Hits while Ngakoue ended the season with 62 pressures, 39 hurries, 11 QB knockdowns, 10 sacks, 16 QB Hits, and 2 FF. The Raiders will need to push Burrow into making quick throws, if they allow him time to have receivers get open the Raiders will struggle. Lastly, the Bengals feature one of the worst run defenses of the season and with Josh Jacobs’s resurgence in the past few games, the Raiders could control this game by keeping the ball out of the Bengals’ hands and controlling the time of possession.
The Bengals pass rush is dominant this year with a strong duo of Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard (see Marrissa’s Bengals outlook for stats) but they have strong pieces on the defensive interior as well with guys like BJ Hill, Larry Ogunjobi, and DJ Reader combining for 16 sacks, 15 QB Hits, 39 hurries, and 94 pressures on the season. The Raiders IOL is not a strong unit with guards John Simpson and rookie Alex Leatherwood ranking near the bottom of the league in pass protection ratings. In addition, starting center Andre James has held his own this year but struggled at times in the run game. On offense, the Bengals might be limited in running the ball but the passing attack could be a problem for a Raiders defense that tends to struggle vs high-powered offenses. The Bengals sport an amazing trio with Boyd, Chase, and Higgins. The Raiders defensive backs room as mentioned earlier is not the strongest, and the matchup between the Bengals receiving corps and Raiders CB will likely determine this game. Finally, the Bengals CB room is outstanding and plays a ton of mixed coverages, the Raiders receiving options aren’t great this season and it could play a factor in trying to move the ball deep.
These two teams met earlier this season with the Bengals winning 32-13. However, that game was far closer till the final 5 minutes where the Vegas offense turned the ball twice attempting to fight back. The Raiders are a team that has spent the last month fighting as the underdog and playing scrapy hard-nosed football, something they will need to do again this week. I trust the Raiders defense to shut down Mixon, and it seems the team will be getting a huge boost to the linebacker core with Nicholas Morrow (78 tackles, 10 TFL, INT, 9 PBU, FF, FR, 3 sacks in 2020) set to return which will help in both the pass coverage and run defense for the defense. Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue should also dominante this game vs the Bengals below average OT duo. On offense, the Raiders likely will struggle to pass on a deep Bengals secondary, but TE Darren Waller should dominante after going over 100 yards last time the two teams met. Overall it seems the Bengals have the edge in most categories but the Raiders have been in the mindset of a scrappy team the past month and in the end overpower the Bengals winning 30-27 on a late Daniel Carlson kick. As I said it will all come down to the passing attacks for both sides, can the Raiders limit Burrow and company and can Derek Carr be kept clean and find open receivers?
As mentioned above it was Mixon that led this offense the last time with two touchdowns. I am expecting the Raiders to gameplan on how to shut him down this time. When this offense found its rhythm is when they get Chase going and get creative with him, which is how I expect the Bengals to approach this game this time. Defensively the Bengals need to attack the offensive line for success, when Derek Carr was sacked four times like against the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs he gets flustered and it leads to poor play offensively. Carr will need to play aggressively and get the ball downfield to his receivers to match the scoring capabilities of the Bengals. In the end, the Bengals just slightly edge out a 30-24 win as their offense overpowers the Raiders’ secondary.