It’s hard to believe that with all the success that the newly-crowned AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals have had over the past decade that they haven’t won a playoff game. Take into account that they lost five straight from 2011-2015 and it makes it even more embarrassing.
It has been 31 years since the Bengals have enjoyed a playoff victory, the longest playoff-winning drought in the league today.
Enter Joe Burrow and a star-studded offense and now the possibility of that drought ending is looking pretty good, especially since their opponent happens to be the Raiders, a team that the Bengals beat 32-13 earlier this season.
The Bengals opponent: the Las Vegas Raiders. The same team that started the Bengals playoff drought in the 1990 divisional round.
The Raiders started the season on fire, winning their first three games and sitting at 5-2 through week 7. Then the losing happened. The Raiders would lose five of their next six games and doubtful to make the playoffs. A four-game winning streak at the end of the season saved the Raiders season and pushing them into the 5th seed in the AFC.
But the wins during the season were less than impressive, only beating three playoff teams: the Eagles, Steelers and Cowboys. Add in that only one of their wins during their end of the season four game winning streak was by more than six points, and you get a team that limped into the playoffs.
In fact, the Raiders have been outscored 439-374 this season, with the only other playoff team being outscored by their opponents being the Pittsburgh Steelers.
One thing is certain about this Raiders team though: they aren’t a team that you want to play a close game against, as that seems to be their specialty this season.
The Bengals had a similar path to the playoffs, seeming to get hot from the start and remaining cool for a while before ending the season in decent fashion, including a win over the Chiefs in week 17.
The prolific offense of the Bengals took the league by storm this season with Joe Burrow finishing 7th in the league in passing yards.
But the offense didn’t stop there.
Ja’Marr Chase nearly broke the all-time single season rookie receiving yards record, coming up just 18 yards short of breaking Bill Groman’s record. Chase only had 81 receptions on the season, but his 18 yards per catch was second in the league, trailing only 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel in the category.
Second-year receiver Tee Higgins had a breakout season as well, accumulating 1,091 yards and six touchdowns.
Joe Mixon was able to complete a full season with the Bengals, only the second time that he has been able to say that in his five-year career. He didn’t disappoint either. Mixon ran for 1,203 yards this season, good for 3rd in the league, and his 13 rushing touchdowns ranked 4th in the league.
It’s safe to say that these two teams like to control the game by throwing the football, so we will get to see plenty of airtime in this one, as both teams nearly hit the 60-40 mark when it came to the ratio of pass plays to run plays.
While the Raiders certainly earned their way to this game, look for the Bengals to take big play opportunities early in the game and try to finish this game off before it has an opportunity to get close.
Prediction: Bengals 34, Raiders 21