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Raiders vs. Bengals: AFC wild card game preview

After years of mediocrity, the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals find themselves back in the playoff conversation. The two teams will face each other in the wild card round of the AFC playoffs. The Bengals won the matchup over Las Vegas 32-13. Cincinnati won their first division title since 2015 by having an explosive offense led by second-year QB Joe Burrow.

From a productive standpoint on offense, the Bengals were one of the league’s most potent units. They have personnel at every skilled position that can give any opposing defense fits. Their rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase exploded onto the scene in his first year with the franchise. The LSU standout ranked fourth in the league with 1,455 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

He is a guaranteed lock to win the league’s offensive rookie of the year award. For the Bengals to succeed against the Raiders on Saturday, they must continue to do the things that have made them great this season. Las Vegas has a bend but doesn’t break defense that can impact Saturday’s game, but there still can be opportunities for Cincinnati to be productive on offense.

The key to this game for the Bengals will be their offensive line’s ability to protect Burrow in the pocket. The Raiders have a few rush defenders such as Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue that can get after the quarterback. That’s why the Bengals’ o-line must provide the proper protection for Burrow in Saturday’s game. If they fail to do so, the Raiders can easily take control and dominate the game.

The Raiders head into this matchup with a ton of confidence. The team has overcome numerous battles with adversity throughout the season to be in the situation they are in right now. A win this Saturday against Cincinnati could pay huge dividends to the growth of the Raiders. Playoff hopes seemed to be a long shot for Las Vegas until the Thanksgiving matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. The Raiders would defeat Dallas 36-33 and win four out of their last six games to qualify for a playoff berth.

Las Vegas has a tight end that can be a nightmare for defenses in Darren Waller. However, they must proceed with a conservative attack. The key to knocking off Cincinnati at home is to keep Burrow and their offense on the sidelines watching. This is where the contributions of tailback Josh Jacobs comes into play.

The Raiders must get Jacobs going early to set the tone against Cincinnati. Receivers such as Hunter Renfrow and Zay Jones will need to be critical assets for the Raiders passing game. Quarterback Derek Carr’s ability to identity mismatches within the Bengals defense is where the game could be won or lost for the Raiders. Top signal-callers such as Aaron Rodgers, Justin Herbert, and Patrick Mahomes have shown that the Bengals defense has issues defending the upper tier of NFL quarterbacks. Carr can achieve the same results if the game plan is executed correctly. 

Predicted Outcome

Expect a lot of offensive production in Saturday’s game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals. Las Vegas will make things interesting throughout the game, but their defense may not do enough to keep Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and the rest of the Bengals high-powered offense off the field. Bengals win by three.

Raiders  28

Bengals 31

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

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Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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