Finally. A playoff game for the Las Vegas Raiders.
It has taken some time for the Raiders to get back to the playoffs, falling a little short each of the past two seasons, but the drought is over. The Raiders are set to face the Cincinnati Bengals on the road in a wild-card game.
The weather will not be ideal. The forecast calls for cloudy skies, with the temperature at kickoff expected to be in the mid-20s.
Many suggest the Raiders don’t play well in the cold, but they did win at Cleveland in each of the past two seasons.
The Raiders moved past the euphoria of their playoff-clinching 35-32 overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers and have their sights set on the Bengals.
A Week 11 matchup between the teams this season at Allegiant Stadium provides a little preview. The Raiders lost 32-13, but the game was closer than that, with the Bengals leading just 16-13 after Carr hit tight end Foster Moreau with a 19-yard touchdown pass with 11:42 remaining.
Cincinnati pulled away in the final 5 minutes, and the Raiders learned some lessons. The Bengals outgained Las Vegas in total yards just 288-278, but the Raiders had a pair of turnovers and rushed for only 72 yards.
“They did a good job of stopping us and getting the ball from us and all those things,” Carr said. “For myself, always, is you want to take care of the football while still staying aggressive and all those good things. They beat us last time and we know what kind of team they are because we played them and they’re super good, super talented, really well coached, and it’ll be exciting challenge for us.”
The Raiders are winners of four straight, thanks to a strong defensive effort and a resurgent running game, led by Josh Jacobs.
Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby, who was named the AFC defensive player of the week for Week 18, has been a force with his constant harassment of quarterbacks (101 pressures). That is what will be needed against the Bengals’ Joe Burrow. The Raiders also will need to limit big runs by Joe Mixon, who scored twice against them while rushing for 123 yards.
The defense will need to reverse the turnover gap to give the offense a chance at converting some short-field drives.
“I’m just happy where we are as a team.,” Raiders cornerback Casey Hayward said. “Not even kind of worried about myself, but I always say, if I play well, we got a chance to win and hopefully it continues this weekend in Cincinnati.”
Odds, TV and Raiders-Bengals pick
The entire nation will get to see the game on NBC. In Fresno, it will be on KSEE Channel 24, with kickoff at 1:30 p.m.
The Bengals enter as a 5-point favorite by Draft Kings, with the over/under at 48.5.
Las Vegas has been solid on the road this season, going 5-3, including that win in a cold weather city in Cleveland.
The key this week for the Raiders is to play smart and run the ball effectively to set up Carr or Marcus Mariota in short yardage, and for the defense to sack Burrow and create turnovers. The Bengals, if given time, are capable of big plays from standout receiver Ja’Marr Chase and others.
The Raiders’ cornerbacks and safeties need to be aware.
Las Vegas got revenge on the Chargers for a previous loss this season and will look to do the same against the Bengals.
Can the Raiders continue to be road warriors and prolong their season with another strong performance? We think it happens, again.
Prediction: Raiders 23, Bengals 20