It’s bee awhile since we’ve seen either one of these teams in the playoffs, and it’s fair to debate which one of these teams has pulled off the greater turnaround to get here. Is it the Las Vegas Raiders, operating under an interim coach since Week 6 and overcoming a 1-5 skid in the middle of the season to finish 10-7? Or is it the Cincinnati Bengals, who finished dead last in their division last season for the third season in a row to win the AFC North against all odds and earn the conference’s fourth seed? Both can lay claim to a minor miracle, a hard-earned one. And whichever team’s turnaround you find more impressive, there is no debating the fact that we should be in for a pretty good game when they kickoff at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
At first glance, that might look like a pretty big spread for a fourth and fifth seed, and the Raiders recent hot streak is certainly going to draw the attention of some bettors in this one. It’s hard to overlook the impressive four-game win streak that got the Raiders here, not to mention the fact that this team has won four of their last five games as the underdog.
This is not a Bengals team to write off, as we’ve learned this season, and they look like they’ll snap the seven-game Wild Card losing streak that ended the Marvin Lewis era and brought in Zach Taylor. These two teams met earlier this season, back in Week 11. The Bengals won in a landslide there too, beating the Raiders on the road by a final score of 32-13.
There wasn’t a ton of passing in that game. The Bengals mostly let Joe Mixon do the heavy lifting, running for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Joe Burrow only threw for 148 yards. The Raiders will doubtlessly be keyed in on Mixon for this one, trying to shore up a defense giving up an average of 114 rush yards per game. That should help keep some pressure off the quarterback too, a key with Burrow getting sacked an average of three times per game. And while Las Vegas’ pass defense is a better unit overall, Burrow shouldn’t have any problems topping the 148 passing yards from their last matchup.
Both of these teams have a legitimate claim to the underdog title, but the smart money says the Bengals can come away with a win of at least six points here.
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