Las Vegas Raiders @ Cincinnati Bengals Predictions and Picks
This should be one of the better games of wild card weekend when we kick off the playoffs at 4:30 EST today. Both the Raiders and Bengals enter today's contest after going 3-0 ATS in their last 3 games. There is certainly a little bit of recency bias being cooked into this line with Joe Burrow throwing for nearly 1,000 yards in his last two outings and 9 TD's, but there are certainly more factors that should come into play during the course of this game.
Starting off as always with our model projections, we have this game at a score of CIN-28, LV-27. As for why this may be the case, look no further than CIN's secondary. The Bengals are 24th in pass defense DVOA and are 29th in explosive pass play percentage allowed. With the Raiders ranking only 26th in rush play percentage, they should be throwing it early and often if they want a chance at winning this game and I have trouble believing that the Bengals secondary can hold them down. On the other side of things, the Raiders are also 3rd in offensive explosive pass play % (CIN is 2nd), so they should have the opportunity for a couple of big plays deep throughout the course of this contest. Even with CIN being 2nd in their own right, LV is 5th in explosive pass play percentage allowed, giving them the advantage on the big play game provided that they don't let Jamar Chase do what he did 2 weeks ago.
Looking at the OL and DL, CIN doesn't fare spectacularly either. They rank 15th in adjusted line yards, but 31st in adjusted sack rate allowed, meaning Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue will have to be focal points of the LV defense for them to keep this game close, but they've been doing that for the last month already. CIN does have a stronger DL against the run BUT the Raiders are the #1 team against power run concepts and should force some long 2nd and 3rd downs by slowing down Joe Mixon and the rushing attack.
The biggest concern for the Raiders in this matchup is whether they can keep CIN out of the red zone and whether or not they can stop themselves from committing penalties. They're the second-most penalized team in the league and lead the league in penalty yards against. They MUST minimize these mistakes if they want a shot at this game, as giving an offense with these weapons additional chances at first downs is not a strategy for success. CIN runs 3WR sets 76% of the time and averages 9.3 yards/pass attempt out of that setting, if LV commits penalties that give that formation more chances to succeed with all that talent, they eventually will. LV needs to keep the ball out of Burrow's hands and when he does have it, they need to play a shell coverage to keep deep plays at a minimum to throw off CIN's gameplan.
This should be a great game. Two teams that are top 3 in explosive pass play percentage with underwhelming secondaries face-off after both winning some tough games to get in. Something worth noting here is that 4 out of the last 5 CIN games have been decided by 5 points or less and 6 out of the last 7 LV games have been decided by 4 points or less, so even though the spread has dropped from 7 to 5.5, there is still some room for error here. We have this game at a 1 point margin, giving us 4.5 points of value on the Raiders, and since we have the game at a total of 55 points, we have a lot of value to spare on the over.
LVR +5.5 (-110) 2.5u
OVER 48 (-110) 1u