Raiders Wild Card vs Bengals: Game preview and prediction
By Alex Perl
The Raiders travel to Cincinnati this week to try and exact some revenge on the Bengals in this weekend’s AFC Wild Card clash.
The Las Vegas Raiders are in unfamiliar territory — a playoff appearance. After years of mediocrity and an absence from the playoffs since 2016, Las Vegas has done the unthinkable, and are now playing in the AFC Wild Card round this Saturday in Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati Bengals are no foreign opponent to the Silver and Black. In Week 11, the Bengals added to the Raiders’ misery and gave the franchise their third straight defeat by a score of 32-13.
What we are witnessing is a much different team. With four straight victories for the franchise, they are hot at the moment, and their hot streak could not have come at a more perfect time as they clinched a playoff berth in Week 18.
The identity of this Raiders Franchise
The Bengals identity seems to be pretty secure. Before their Week 18 loss (sitting the majority of starters for playoffs), they had won three straight games, including a nail-biter over the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs. A Chiefs team that has outscored Las Vegas in two contests this year by a margin of 89-23.
In Las Vegas, the Raiders seem to be the hotter of the two with four straight victories. However, this team has been up and down all season. After starting the season 3-0 for the first time in nearly two decades, the team finished at 5-2 before the Week eight bye.
The Raiders followed the strong start to the season by losing five of their next six games following the bye before going on the current four-game winning streak. Of course, major personnel and roster changes within this franchise may have signified a changing of the guard to the Raider strong start, but whatever the case, this Raiders team has been a hard one to call on a week-to-week basis.
If the current four-game winning streak for Las Vegas is an indicator of a team that may be figuring itself at the right time is hard to say. None of the teams the Raiders have beaten in the last four games are playoff teams, so are the Raiders prepared to exact revenge on a tough opponent in the Bengals, or are they merely in a position due to weak opposition?
Whatever the case may be for the Raiders, they have overcome the odds and made it to the NFL playoffs and will look to show that their four-game winning streak is no fluke. Hopefully, the Raiders’ identity is now apparent as they enter this contest as heavy underdogs.
I for one, am buying this turnaround, and although they were manhandled in Vegas this season against the Bengals, there was promise in the fact they held the dangerous Bengals passing game in check.
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With a much more balanced offense with the sudden emergence of the running game, I expect the narrative to be much different in this clash in Cincy.
Final Score: Raiders 28, Bengals 20