What to look out for in Raiders – Bengals during Super Wild Card Weekend

The postseason was different for the Bengals and Raiders. The Bengals won Week 17 the AFC North and restrained their starters for Week 18, which allowed some players to get some rest before the playoffs. It was a privilege that the Bengals were allowed to exercise, for better or worse. The Raiders did not have the same breathing room. They were at 6-6 in December and needed to win four straight games to close out the season. The culmination of a Week 18 overtime thriller with the Chargers was enough to secure a wild-card spot. The Bengals fell asleep on the couch, while the Raiders sneaked into the backdoor. They’ll meet for the second time this season, the first being a resounding 32-13 Cincinnati win in Week 11.

These are the four things you should be paying attention to when the Bengals take on the Raiders Saturday afternoon.

  1. Joe Burrow is on fire. Oder is he? The Bengals’ star QB, Cincy, had his best season so far with 525 yards against the Ravens and 446 against Chiefs. Both games were won by Cincy with an offensive explosion that can carry them through the playoffs. A minor knee injury, and head coach Zac Taylor’s decision to rest starters, kept him out of a season-ending loss to the Browns. Burrow is expected to recover from his injury, but will he be able to pick up the pieces after spending a week away? A healthy Burrow doesn’t necessarily mean one as locked-in as the Burrow who blasted the Ravens and Chiefs for a combined eight touchdowns without an interception.
  2. Maxx Crosby is worth your attention. The Raiders’ exceptional defensive end will be working against the Bengals right guard Isaiah Prince. Prince replaced Riley Reiff in the first three games of this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Prince is not a good pass protector. Cincinnati could offer some assistance in dealing with Crosby (82). Jonah Williams will not be happy with Yannick Nakoue, as he was third in the NFL for pressures with 71. If there’s a mismatch to be found on the edge for the Raiders, it’s with Crosby on Prince.
  3. The Raiders are bringing back the running game. It’s more than just the season-high 174 yards Las Vegas ran for in the season finale against the Chargers’ porous rush defense. Two weeks ago, their second-best total of the season, 160 yards, was recorded against the Denver Broncos. It’s been a long time coming for a Raiders offense that was expected to have much better balance this season. It’s also come with a heavy lean on Josh Jacobs, who’s looked excellent in averaging 23 carries per game over his last three games.
  4. Can Las Vegas contain Trey Hendrickson? The Bengals star pass rusher, Josh Brown, had four pressures against Las Vegas in Week 11. He had two hurries and a sack. There was also a forced fumble with 25 pass rush snaps. He’s had more productive games on the stat sheet, but that one represented his best pass-rush grade of the season (90.0) per PFF. With a career-high 14 sacks, he’s been everything defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo could have hoped for in his first season in Cincy. He’ll likely line up for most of his snaps against Raiders left tackle Kolton Miller, who’s had the best season of anyone on the Raiders’ offensive line. It’s sure to be an exciting battle on passing downs.

Next Generation Stats of the game: Burrow was able to help avoid pressure in Week 11 at Las Vegas by throwing quick passes (under 2.5 seconds) on a career high 72.4 percent of his attempts.

NFL Research: Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Burrow will make the playoffs for the first time. Carr will attempt to be the Raiders’ first QB to win the playoff game since Rich Gannon’s 2002 AFC championship game against Tennessee. Burrow, on the other hand, would be the Bengals’ first QB to do it since Boomer Eason (1990 vs. Houston Oilers).