Las Vegas Raiders@
The Cincinnati Bengals host the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, kicking off the NFL’s Wildcard Weekend in front of a 65,500-strong crowd at Paul Brown Stadium. We break down the top betting nuggets and storylines.
Cincinnati is making its first postseason appearance since 2015 and should be fresh after resting Joe Burrow and other starters in Week 18. Joe Mixon will be back from the reserve/COVID list as the Bengals look for a repeat of their comfortable win over the Raiders in November.
Las Vegas has overcome a barrage of obstacles this season - and a four-game win streak to end the regular season was just enough to reach the playoffs. The Raiders have a path to an upset here, but we like the Cincinnati offense to take care of business.
If Burrow has time in the pocket, he will find favorable matchups for Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. The Bengals averaged 27 points a game this season and confidence should be high after winning a 34-31 shootout against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17.
But the Cincinnati offensive line can be vulnerable, especially against elite pass-rushers like Las Vegas’ Maxx Crosby. While Burrow can get the ball out fast, he needs a few extra precious seconds to set up chunk plays for Chase.
Defensively, the Bengals look equipped to slow down the Raiders’ running game. Their solid run-stoppers held Josh Jacobs and company to 72 rushing yards in the teams’ prior meeting this season. But the Cincinnati pass defense has been up-and-down - and playoff nerves could be a factor on both sides of the ball.
It is no coincidence that the Raiders put up 35 points in Week 18 in their dramatic overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers after a month of sluggish play. Darren Waller (knee/back) made his return on Sunday night and immediately opened up the field for Derek Carr.
Like Burrow, Carr is making his postseason debut here. He leaned on Jacobs at the weekend, but expect a bigger emphasis on the passing game on Saturday given Cincinnati’s strength against the run. That means a heavy workload for both Waller and the elusive Hunter Renfrow.
A quick turnaround from an emotionally draining Sunday night marathon does not help the visitors, who will need a monster effort from their front seven to pressure Burrow and limit Mixon (123 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Las Vegas in Week 11).
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