Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#3141 Las Vegas Raiders vs.
#3142 Cincinnati Bengals
Saturday, January 15, 2022 at 4:30pm EST
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
Written by Nathaniel Reeves

Two teams looking to snap long droughts without a playoff victory will clash in an AFC Wild Card matchup on Saturday afternoon when the Las Vegas Raiders visit the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Las grabbed a Wild Card spot as the No. 5 seed in the AFC at 10-7 after surviving a wild 35-32 overtime contest against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night as a three-point home underdog. Cincinnati is the AFC North champion at 10-7 to earn the No. 4 seed, and with nothing to play for in its regular-season finale lost to the Cleveland Browns 21-16 as a 6.5-point road underdog on Sunday.

These teams met in Week 11 with the Bengals rolling to a 32-13 road win to cover as a 2.5-point favorite. Cincinnati has won four of the last five head-to-head meetings, although the Raiders lead 21-12 all-time including wins in the only two previous postseason matchups.

Raiders survive instant classic for first playoff appearance since 2016

In a bizarre situation on Sunday Night Football against the Chargers where the winner would advance to the playoffs but a tie would see both teams through, the Raiders won in overtime in one of the wildest games in recent memory. Las Vegas led for most of the first half thanks to touchdowns by Hunter Renfrow and Josh Jacobs and another score by Renfrow in the fourth quarter helped build a 29-14 advantage in the final five minutes before the Chargers stormed back to tie as time expired, converting a ridiculous six fourth downs along the way. After the teams traded field goals in overtime, Las Vegas was careful on its next drive with a tie ensuring a postseason berth, but moved the ball just enough to set up Daniel Carlson's 47-yard field goal at the buzzer.

Derek Carr completed 20 of 36 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns, while Jacobs had a massive game with 26 carries for 132 yards and a score including a 10-yard carry in the final 30 seconds of overtime to move Las Vegas into field goal range. Bryan Edwards made some big plays with four catches for 63 yards. The Raiders were outgained 440-346, but won the turnover battle 2-0 and were terrific on special teams with Carlson going 5/5 on field-goal attempts.

“We just found a way to have a chance to win at the end,” interim coach Rich Bisaccia said via the Associated Press. “We’ve been in this situation before ... just can’t say enough about how this team prepares and going into the game and playing like that. They believe in each other when they go out there. They don’t blink."

Las Vegas finishes the regular season 8-9 against the spread, but covered in its last three games including a huge upset of the Indianapolis Colts as an 8.5-point underdog to set up last weekend's win-and-in scenario. Overs are also 8-9 for the Raiders after their last game went over the betting total, snapping a run of three straight unders.

The Raiders averaged a middling 22 points per game for the season, but did move the ball well with 363.8 yards per contest. Las Vegas' defense finished 26th in scoring at 25.8 points on 337.2 yards per game allowed, although it did perform much better down the stretch run to key the playoff push.

Carr finished fifth in the league in passing, going 428/626 for 4,804 yards, 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Jacobs carried the ball 217 times for 217 yards and eight touchdowns, while Renfrow had another big year with 103 receptions for 1,038 yards and nine scores. Maxx Crosby led the NFL in pressures, racking up eight sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 30 quarterback hits and seven batted passes overall.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins (back/knee) was the only member of the Raiders active roster to miss practice on Wednesday. Star tight end Darren Waller returned to the lineup for the first time since Thanksgiving but was still limited in practice by a knee injury, while Jacobs (ribs) and corner Casey Heyward Jr. (ankle) are also dealing with lingering issues. Defensive tackle Darius Philon (knee) hit injured reserve on Sunday after playing great early in the game, joining other key Raiders like corner Trayvon Mullen Jr. (toe), safety Jonathan Abram (shoulder), No. 2 running back Kenyon Drake (ankle), fullback Alec Ingold (knee), guard Richie Incognito (calf) and guard Denzelle Good (knee).

Bengals have starters rested in search of first playoff win since 1990

After a dramatic victory over Kansas City the previous weekend clinched the AFC North, the Bengals chose to rest several starters last Sunday rather than hope to improve their seeding and took a loss in Cleveland as a result. Cincinnati didn't get on the board until the 3:28 mark of the second quarter on Trayvon Henderson's 29-yard fumble return for a touchdown, and four-yard scoring catch by Chris Evans with 2:26 to go made things interesting but the Bengals couldn't recover the onside kick.

Backup quarterback Brandon Allen struggled, completing 15/29 pass attempts for 136 yards and the late touchdown. Trayveon Williams led the Bengals with nine carries for 38 yards, while Trent Taylor brought in two receptions for 41 yards. Cincinnati performed about as well as expected with the second string in as it was outgained 376-182, with only two Cleveland turnovers keeping the game close.

“There’s a lot of confidence from this group,” head coach Zac Taylor said to the Associated Press. “Sometimes they don’t know what they don’t know, and that can be a good thing. You certainly can’t avoid some of the narrative that surrounds us sometimes with playoff experience. But these guys don’t have playoff experience. You know, they don’t feel that pressure, they don’t think about that stuff at all."

The Bengals had a matching 10-7 record against the spread in the regular season and covered in each of their last four games, including big wins over the Broncos and Chiefs as an underdog. Overs are 8-9 for the Bengals after their regular season finale went under the betting total, snapping a run of two straight overs.

Cincinnati enters the playoff seventh in scoring offense with an average of 27.1 points on 361.5 yards per game. The Bengals defense finished right around the league average with opponents putting up 22.1 points and 350.8 yards per contest.

Starting quarterback Joe Burrow had a terrific sophomore campaign, completing 366 of 520 pass attempts for 4,611 yards, 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while adding two rushing scores. Joe Mixon carried the ball 292 times for 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Ja'Marr Chase broke the all-time rookie receiving record with 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 scores. Trey Hendrickson proved to be a huge pickup in free agency, as he racked up 14 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 27 quarterback hits to lead the Cincinnati defense.

The Bengals had several key players on the COVID list last weekend including Mixon, Hendrickson and Von Bell, but all were able to return to practice earlier this week. Defensive tackle Josh Tupou (knee) was the only member of the active roster to miss practice Wednesday. Wideout Tee Higgins (foot) is the biggest question mark as he was limited, with safety Ricardo Allen (concussion), corner Jalen Davis (ankle) and wideout Stanley Morgan (hamstring) also limited. Linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither (foot), offensive tackle Riley Reiff (ankle), linebacker Jordan Evans (knee), guard Xavier Su'a-Filo (knee) and safety Brandon Wilson (knee) are some of the key Bengals on injured reserve.

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Even though the regular-season meeting between these two finished with a lopsided score in favor of the Bengals, it was a three-point game with 5:02 to go, and the Raiders have performed much better on both sides of the ball since then. Las Vegas just keeps finding a way to be competitive in games where it has a talent disadvantage on paper, and this one will come down to the wire between two good but ultimately flawed teams.

While the Raiders offense was a mess in the first matchup with Cincinnati, it has been far less one-dimensional since as Jacobs has finally gotten the run game going with 324 yards over the past three weeks, which totally changes how Las Vegas can attack opposing defenses. The Bengals did a lot of good things defensively in the regular season, but can be vulnerable as they allowed 5.5 yards per play to rank 21st in the NFL.

Las Vegas' main strength defensively is getting pressure on the quarterback as Crosby seems to be in the backfield every play, and the one knock on the Bengals offense would be a 9.02% sack rate that is the second-worst in the league. The Raiders had plenty of experience operating in close games this season, and this spread is too much based on how they played down the stretch.

Prediction: Raiders +5.5

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It won't be easy to generate stops against this Cincinnati offense, with Burrow quickly living up to the hype as a sophomore, Mixon turning in a strong season, and Chase emerging as a superstar who can take it to the house on any given play. Las Vegas was a decent defense from an efficiency standpoint but still gave up a lot of points, and with Philon getting added to an already lengthy injured reserve list on that side of the ball, this will be a challenge.

The Bengals do not defend the pass well, and Las Vegas' aerial attack has gotten better lately with Waller back in the lineup plus the emergence of Zay Jones and possibly Edwards as downfield threats, a big change from a stretch earlier in the year when Renfrow had to carry everything. This has the makings of a shootout between two offenses who should be able to take advantage of the weaknesses of the opposing defenses.

Prediction: Over 48.5
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Written By Nathaniel Reeves , "Nathaniel Reeves"

Nathaniel Reeves is an avid sports fan with degrees in journalism from the University of Washington and statistics from Western Washington University. He's always had a passion for applying statistical analysis to sports betting and has successfully handicapped college football, college basketball, and Esports for years. Nathaniel has endured being a lifelong fan of the Seattle Mariners, along with the Seattle Seahawks, UW Huskies and soon to be Seattle Kraken. He has been a very successful sports bettor the last several years and we are thrilled that Nate has chosen to bring his talents to us here at Winners & Whiners. You would be very wise to follow him daily. 
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