For the first time in five seasons, the Las Vegas Raiders have made it to the playoffs. Thanks to some help and a four-game win streak to finish off the season, the Raiders’ Super Bowl hopes are still alive. Their first task is to face the Cincinnati Bengals, a team they lost to in Week 11.
The Raiders get to play a playoff football game for merely the second time in 20 seasons. This time with their starting quarterback, Derek Carr, at the helm. While it may be a first for a lot of players on the Raiders, the same is true for the Bengals.
While the Raiders did lose to the Bengals back in Week 11 by 19 points, the final score was not a true indicator of the competitiveness of the game. The game was close for about three and a half quarters, and then the wheels fell off for Las Vegas. The Raiders will obviously look to prove that Week 11 was a fluke. That absolutely could happen if a couple of these predictions come to fruition.
Josh Jacobs runs for over 150 yards
If there was ever a poster boy for the saying, “It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish,” Jacobs would be that guy. The Alabama alum had a rough start to the season, to say the least. While he was injured, he missed three games and didn’t break 100 yards until Week 16 against Denver.
In that matchup, Jacobs went into the half and came out a different man. He appeared to run with more fire and vigor. The offensive line also appeared to turn it on. In the last three games, Jacobs ran for 129, 63 and 132 yards respectively.
The weather in Cincinnati is setting the stage for a running game bonanza. That means Jacobs will get plenty of touches. A plethora of opportunities combined with newly discovered positive game play could result in a big game on the ground.
Maxx Crosby has at least three sacks
Appropriately named “Mad”, Maxx Crosby has been the heart and soul of not just the defense but the entire team this whole season. He’s been all over the place and has received quite a bit of praise and recognition for his leaps in play. Having Yannick Ngakoue on the other side was probably beneficial as well.
However, Crosby is relentless and never seems to wear down or tire out. In fact, during the overtime game against the Los Angeles Chargers, he appeared to just be getting going as the game was winding down. No doubt there’ll be some extra adrenaline flowing in his first playoff appearance. While he didn’t have a sack in Week 11, he did have two against the Chargers and will undoubtedly be on the prowl for some more come Saturday.
Raiders win by 10+ points
This would be such a sweet way for the Raiders to start a playoff run. Take down a team that not only beats you in the season but does so in comfortable fashion. After all the nail-biting, heart-pounding, blood pressure-raising games this year, it’d be nice to relax for once. Especially in the playoffs.
However, I do realize this one might be the boldest of predictions. With that being said, I’m going to stick to my guns here. The Raiders have been playing better lately and put up a better fight against the Bengals than the final score would indicate. Also, as it will be a cold, potentially snowy day, the run game will be crucial.
Just as Jacobs has gotten better, Joe Mixon has been relatively quiet the last three weeks. Keeping him contained and repeating the performance against Ja’Marr Chase (three catches for 32 yards) could lead to a Raiders victory in Super Wild Card Weekend.
All bets are off…
Football is one of the hardest sports to predict. There’s a reason the NFL mantra is “Any Given Sunday,” or in this case, Saturday. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day. The Raiders proved that in the last four weeks of the season. They were considered underdogs in three of the four matchups.
Saturday is no different. Most experts and betting websites have the Raiders losing. This is something this team should be used to by now. Respect is earned, not given. The Raiders have to go out and prove they deserve that respect. It all starts against Cincinnati. As Las Vegas has proven, don’t count them out just yet.
*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images