I wrote off the Raiders several times throughout the year, but Rich Bisaccia pulled a rabbit out of his hat time and again to become the first interim coach to lead his team to the playoffs. Derek Carr now gets the opportunity to play the first playoff game of his career, and he’s facing Joe Burrow, who is also making his playoff debut. It’s been an incredible sophomore season for Burrow, largely thanks to the excellent rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase and sophomore Tee Higgins. Cincinnati wrapped up its season with a win over the Chiefs that clinched the AFC North, and they didn’t play their starters in their loss to the Browns last week. The Raiders, meanwhile, narrowly escaped an overtime win over the Chargers to clinch a playoff spot in precisely the type of game they have been winning all season. The Bengals opened up as 6.5-point favorites, and while there has been some sharp action on the Raiders, Vegas is suggesting the run for the Raiders won’t last long – are they right?
Las Vegas Raiders Vs. Cincinnati Bengals Betting Odds
Las Vegas Raiders Vs. Cincinnati Bengals Injury Report
Las Vegas Raiders: TE Darren Waller (knee) Q, RB Josh Jacobs (ribs) Q, CB Casey Hayward (ankle) Q, DT Johnathan Hankins (back) Q, S Trevon Moehrig (shoulder) Q
Las Vegas Raiders Betting Odds
This season, Derek Carr’s stats don’t jump off the page, but he provided the needed leadership through the challenging off-field circumstances they faced all year. Carr had another game-winning drive on Sunday, the 30th of his career, which leads the NFL since he was drafted in 2015. The Raiders needed every bit of his six game-winning drives this season and the Raiders are the first team in NFL history to win six games with a score on the final play of the game. Those aren’t sustainable metrics, yet the Raiders keep pulling out close games with clutch plays and late-game heroics from Derek Carr. The return of Darren Waller is essential as the Raiders have found it challenging to find consistent pass-catching outside of Hunter Renfrow, who is enjoying a career year. Waller was available for the game against the Bengals earlier in the year. He finished with seven catches for 116 yards, but it wasn’t enough to keep the score close.
I’m pretty confident the Raiders can get to around 20 points against the Bengals, and I would lean towards the over on their team total of 22.5 points. The big question for them will be whether or not they can do enough to slow down the Bengals on defense. Earlier this year, Cincinnati scored 32 points in the matchup while Joe Burrow only threw for 148 yards. The Raiders finished the year ranked 10th in run defense DVOA while allowing just 4.2 YPC, the tenth-fewest in the NFL. However, Joe Mixon ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns against them earlier in the year. The Bengals have had a difficult time keeping Joe Burrow upright at times this year, and the key for the Raiders will be getting consistent pressure on him from Maxx Crosby and Carl Nassib. Casey Hayward is an excellent veteran, and Nate Hobbs has shown well as a rookie, but the Raiders’ secondary won’t hold up against Chase and Higgins if they aren’t getting consistent pass-rush.
Cincinnati Bengals Betting Odds
Joe Burrow is a future MVP in this league, and his tremendous play this season has earned the Bengals their first playoff berth since 2015. Burrow ranked second in the NFL during the regular season among qualified passers with a 108.3 passer rating, behind only Aaron Rodgers. The second-year quarterback ranked top ten in passing yards and touchdowns, and he has been excellent despite ending last year with a horrific set of knee injuries. Ja’Marr Chase hasn’t taken long to become one of the best receivers in the NFL – he finished with 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns and should be the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Tee Higgins deserves credit for a solid season, as well, and they are the best receiver tandem in the NFL. Joe Mixon exposed the Raiders’ run defense earlier this year, but if they sell out to stop the run, Chase and Higgins can run circles around their defensive backs.
The Bengals’ defense has slipped in recent weeks, but they should have everyone healthy for this matchup. Chidobe Awuzie has been one of the league’s best cornerbacks this year, while Trey Hendrickson earned a Pro Bowl nod while leading the team with 14 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Both Awuzie and Hendrickson were veteran free agency additions who have transformed the team’s pass defense. However, the Bengals are better against the run, as they rank 13th in run defense DVOA this year. The Raiders managed just 72 rushing yards as a team against them this year, and their ability to force Vegas into a one-dimensional offense is essential. D.J. Reader is at the heart of the Bengals’ run defense, while Logan Wilson is evolving into an outstanding starting linebacker in his second pro season. The biggest underrated matchup in this game will be Mike Hilton, the team’s slot corner enjoying an excellent year against Hunter Renfrow.
Las Vegas Raiders Vs. Cincinnati Bengals Picks & Prediction
The “nobody believes in us” Raiders fought tooth and nail to get to this spot, and their mojo is buzzing heading into the playoffs. However, Derek Carr’s first postseason appearance isn’t going to end well as his team is running into a buzzsaw of a Cincinnati team. I can understand why sharp action is favoring the Raiders early in the week after their performance on Sunday, but a lot has to go right for them to make this game close. It starts with the pass-rush and taking advantage of Riley Reiff’s absence, and Maxx Crosby is the big X-factor here. However, the Bengals’ offense can win in too many different ways for me to have a high level of confidence in the Raiders keeping this one close.
The Bengals essentially gave themselves a bye week last week by benching a ton of key players, and the Raiders are coming off an incredibly hard-fought game on Sunday night, making this a short week for them. When this line was sitting at 7 or 6.5 points, I contemplated picking the Raiders to cover as road dogs, but I like the Bengals to cover the current line. Joe Burrow should come out firing, and Joe Mixon has already proven he can take advantage of the weak Raiders run defense to keep the pressure off Burrow. I’ll also take the over in this game, as I think the Bengals will get to 30 points on their own.
My Predictions: Bengals win 33-27, Bengals cover, over 49.5 points
Best Bet: 6-Point Teaser: Bengals +0.5 and over 43.5 points; Bengals team total over 27.5 points