By Chris Schisler
The NFL Wild Card round starts today and it’s time for a quick preview of the action. The Saturday slate starts with a battle in The Jungle, it’s the Las Vegas Raiders vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. The nightcap is the Buffalo Bills hosting the Patriots in a division rivalry playoff style. Here’s what I’m thinking going into these games.
Raiders vs. Bengals
This game feels a lot like the Ravens playoff game against the Titans in 2019. It’s a Bengals team that’s feeling itself after winning the division for the first time in a long time. It’s a sneaky good matchup for the Las Vegas Raiders. The Bengals rebuild comes on the backs of young players and their lack of playoff experience has to be noted. The pressure is on the Bengals and if the Raiders make this a game, Cincinnati may not be able to handle it.
The Bengals are the best team in this matchup. Joe Burrow and those three great receivers are the marquee players here. Remember the Ravens were objectively better than the Titans in 2019. In the playoffs, it doesn’t matter unless you’re the better team that day. The Bengals’ offensive line isn’t great. Burrow has been sacked 51 times this season. That’s the most sacks a quarterback has taken this year,
Ravens fans know firsthand how Maxx Crosby can ruin a game. Crosby has eight sacks and a favorable matchup against a team built to throw it a lot. Yannick Ngakoue had 10 sacks this season and the Raiders are generally known for their ability to get after the quarterback.
Because of the Raiders’ one matchup advantage here and the fact that the Bengals are brand new at this contender thing, give me the Raiders. I’m going with the upset.
Prediction: Raiders win 35-28
Patriots vs. Bills:
This one is tough. These teams know each other very well and the AFC East was decided by the slimmest of margins. The Patriots have a young quarterback, but they have all the things that help said young quarterback. They have a coach who is a game plan master. They have a running game that has three running backs averaging over four yards per attempt. New England also has great tight end play. If the Bills can’t stop the run it will be a problem.
This game goes down to two things. Can the New England Patriots win the battle at the line of scrimmage? Secondly, can Josh Allen play at a level where the Bills are going to win regardless? Allen has been hot and cold this season. If Allen throws for under 250 yards and this is a defensive battle, the balance goes to the Patriots. If Allen plays his best, the Patriots aren’t stopping the Bills and their receiving weapons. The Bills have more firepower and they know it. They want to be aggressive in this game and get out to a fast start.
In the first game between these teams, the weather had a huge factor and the Patriots were able to just run the ball and get the win. Tonight will be brutally cold at Orchard Park, but for Buffalo standards, the wind is pretty mild. Both teams are used to playing in the cold so it’s hard to see this playing too much of a factor. In the end, I’ll go with Josh Allen over Mac Jones. Give me the Bills in this one.
Prediction: Bills win 28-24
The Purple and Black Nest aren’t getting a break just because the Ravens are out of the mix. There is plenty of offseason talk to go over with you. At the end of the day, this is a football site and the playoffs are in our jurisdiction. Playoffs, NFL Draft season, you name it and we’re on it.