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After a questionable timeout by the LA Chargers at the end of overtime, the Las Vegas Raiders skipped playing for a tie and used RB Josh Jacobs to rush the ball to where placekicker Dustin Hopkins could kick a game-winning field goal, and now HC Rich Bisaccia’s team is the fifth AFC seed in QB Derek Carr’s first-ever postseason game, now facing the deep threat Bengals.
For the Cincinnati Bengals to win the AFC North for the first time since 2015, a healthy QB Joe Burrow had to master his connection with his favorite targets – deep threat WR Ja’Marr Chase and red zone specialist TE C.J. Uzomah – a pass attack complimented by dual threat RB Joe Mixon out of the backfield, now if only their 18th ranked defense can continue to improve.
These two AFC rivals have played each other 33 prior times (including 2 postseason games), with the Cincinnati Bengals winning 12 of those games and the Las Vegas Raiders winning 21 of the games.
One of the head-turning playmakers on the Las Vegas Raiders is EDGE rusher Maxx Crosby, a 6’ 5” 255-pound quarterback-hunting machine who seems to have no quit in him right to the end of the fourth quarter, the East Michigan alum having just completed his third NFL season.
Crosby is one of the main reasons the teams who the Raiders have faced this season have had to rush their offensive game plans since he was disrupting most of their efforts to pass and run the ball, this year with 8 sacks and 30 quarterback hits, 7 passes defended, and 55 total blocks.
Bengals QB Joe Burrow has been sacked a league leading 51 times this season, so his offensive line is struggling to keep him safe, and that is the type of weakness that Raiders DC Gus Bradley will most likely exploit as Las Vegas plays in its first postseason since 2016.
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The fourth most productive wide receiver in the NFL this season was Bengals’ rookie Ja’Marr Chase, the former LSU teammate with his Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow now fast becoming a household name as he quickly adjusts to the speed and game play of the professionals.
This season Chase has caught 81 of Burrows passes for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns, and they have used him on some jet sweeps where he has carried the ball 7 times for 21 yards out of the backfield, a fast and crafty runner who makes defenders miss in the open field.
At the playoffs, the lights shine brighter, and Chase (an NFL newbie) could get overwhelmed by the extra attention, but chances are he and Burrow have already worked out those issues at LSU when they excelled under the spotlight winning the 2019 CFP National Championship.
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After having to sit out almost a month and a half with knee and back issues, Raiders TE Darren Waller was finally back in the lineup in Week 18 and just his presence on the field made a difference in terms of how the defense had to prioritize its coverage.
Waller only caught two balls off nine targets last week for 22 yards and no touchdowns, that low catch percentage (22.2) a sign that he is still adjusting to being back on the football field, this season having caught almost 60% of what QB Carr has thrown his way.
When healthy, Waller’s size – 6’ 6” and 255 pounds – makes him tough to tackle, but it’s his ability to shift off the block and get open as a receiver that makes him valuable, a tight end who can fight for contested catches for first downs and in the red zone when it gets even tougher.
Now in his fifth NFL season, Bengals RB Joe Mixon is a dual-threat out of the backfield who has posted 1,400+ total yards from scrimmage in three of those years, now a big part of the Cincy offense’s success, his early game production setting the tone for the second half for QB Burrow.
What Mixon gives the Bengals is 4.1 yards per carry, this year with 292 rushes for 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns with only two fumbles in sixteen games, numbers that make him the third most productive running back in the league this regular season.
Watch for Mixon to establish a run presence early in the game, and then become a blocker and check down receiver as the second half progresses, the 6’ 1” 220 pound Oklahoma alum tough to tackle after the catch, this season with 42 receptions for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns.
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|Raiders vs Bengals Information|
|What||Las Vegas Raiders vs Cincinnati Bengals|
|Where||Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio|
|When||Saturday, January 15, 2022; 4:30 PM ET|
|How to watch||NBC|
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