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NFL Playoff Preview 2021-22 Wildcard: #4 Bengals Vs #5 Raiders

NFL Playoff Preview
Chris Unger/Getty Images

NFL Playoff Preview 2021 Wildcard: #4 Bengals Vs #5 Raiders

The 2021 playoffs are set, now it’s time for the NFL Playoff Preview for the Wildcard round. This matchup features two surprises, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Las Vegas Raiders. The Bengals were never expected to win the AFC North, but after the AFC North struggled and the Bengals went 10-7, they won the AFC North. The Raiders made it as a wildcard after a bizarre season filled with turmoil. That includes the email scandal with Jon Gruden, Henry Ruggs III DUI and murder, and Damon Arnette’s gun video. Regardless the Raiders also ended up 10-7 and are in the playoffs after winning 4 straight. Both the Bengals and Raiders are hot right now, let’s see what each team can do to win their wildcard round in this NFL Playoff Preview.

How The Bengals Can Win

#1 Protect Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow Has been sacked 51 times this season. In the 16 games that he has played this season, he has averaged being sacked 3 times a game. This simply won’t do against the Raiders. Maxx Crosby has the highest pressure rate in the NFL and Yannick Ngakoue is no scrub either. Isaiah Prince must make it a priority to do whatever he can to stop Maxx Crosby. Jonah Williams should be able to hold his own against Yannick Ngakoue but Prince has to hold his own. The Bengals chose not to get an offensive lineman with their 5th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. While Ja’Marr Chase is seemingly the Rookie of the Year, it’s hard for Burrow to throw to his star WR if he has no time. The rest of the Bengals WR room is nothing to sleep on either with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. The better the Bengals can protect Joe Burrow, the better the Bengals can shred the Raiders’ secondary. The Bengals also want to make sure Joe Burrow hurts his knee any further after he was limping at the end of the week 17 game against the Chiefs. While that would be 2 weeks ago when they play the Raiders, you can never be too careful.

#2 Get Joe Mixon Involved Early

One way the Bengals can keep pressure off Joe Burrow is to get Joe Mixon involved early. Despite not having a good offensive line, Joe Mixon has been on a tear this season. He has the 3rd most rushing yards and the 4th most rushing TDs in the NFL. He also has 42 receptions, 314 receiving yards, and 3 receiving TDs out of the backfield. By either running or throwing check downs, the Bengals could really help out Joe Burrow if the Raiders’ attention was focused somewhere else in the backfield. If the Bengals can establish the run against a team that gives up about 114 rushing yards a game and throw out to him in the backfield, they will be able to keep pressure off Joe Burrow and divert the Raiders defense elsewhere.

#3 Focus on Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow

The Raiders have two superb weapons in the passing game: Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. After that, there’s much to be desired, It’s vital that the Bengals do whatever they can to stop these two and force the Raiders to look elsewhere for production. The Bengals defense gave up the 3rd most plays with 20+ yards. They also give up the 7th most passing yards in the NFL. They can limit that by taking away the Raiders’ biggest weapons in the passing game with Waller and Renfrow. Force the Raiders to beat you with the run, or Zay Jones and Bryan Edwards.

How The Raiders Can Win

#1 Pressure Joe Burrow

Conversely, the Raiders have to pressure Joe Burrow in this game. Joe Burrow is the most sacked QB in the NFL. The Raiders need to be a part of that party and be absolutely relentless towards Joe Burrow. Don’t give this guy a chance to get into a rhythm with his weapons. The more time Joe Burrow has to throw to Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins, the longer this day is going to be. While Joe Mixon is another problem to deal with, if the Raiders can do their part in getting Joe Burrow uncomfortable, their odds of winning increase drastically.

#2 Be Creative In Play-Calling

This needed to be a point of emphasis the entire season. If you know me at all and have attempted to talk with the Raiders with me before I annoyed you into avoiding me altogether, you’d know I absolutely hate the playcalling for the Raiders. Greg Olsen is very predictable with his playcalling and when the Raiders get into a routine of run-run-pass short of the 1st down and punt, I want to die. The Raiders have to mix it up, early and often. The Mariota packages are a great example of that where the defense is not quite sure what to do. That’s what this offense needs, is uncertainty, the more you can fool the defense, the more effective it can be. Throw a lot of looks out there and make this defense work every down.

#3 Score Touchdowns In The Red Zone

This goes hand-in-hand with the 2nd one. But the Raiders’ offense always seems to stall in the RedZone, but this is also where the Raiders get uncreative. They want to run downhill with 9 in the box and wonder why it doesn’t work with our new and less talented line. The Bengals high-scoring offense WILL put up touchdowns and points in a hurry. FGs are simply not going to work in the RedZone for the Raiders. The Raiders’ defense is not good enough for the Raiders to only score FGs and still win against this Bengals offense. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Mariota package EVERY TIME in the Redzone. Give this offense as many chances as it can to put the ball in the endzone. The Raiders have to throw everything they got into scoring TDs. The Raiders only scored 13 points last time, good luck trying to score 13 points against the Bengals and still expect to win this game.

I think this game could be close. In their previous week 11 matchup, the score was 13-6 Bengals before the Bengals poured 19 points in the 4th quarter. The Raiders were in a funk after losing Henry Ruggs III and coming off 2 embarrassing losses to the Giants and the Chiefs. This seems to be a new and invigorated team for the Raiders. While the Bengals are as hot as they have ever been. Joe Burrow is turning into a superstar despite having no line. His weapons around him make him the most dangerous man on the field at times. The Raiders might not have expected to be here in January playing a playoff game, but they are here now and their first test is here. They must change how they play to win this game, while the Bengals have the same goal in mind. Put up points, win, rinse, and repeat. My score predictions for this NFL Playoff Preview are down below. Go Raiders.

Biased Prediction: 27-24 Raiders.

Actual Prediction: 30-20 Bengals.

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