Heading into the Wild Card Round of playoffs, plenty of familiar faces abound. But these two new kids on the block are on the brink of making history.
The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990; the Raiders haven’t won since 2002.
Cincinnati holds the far longer drought at 31 years, but the Bengals are also the 6.5-point favorites over the Raiders and arguably boast a most consistent team.
The Bengals made it to the postseason with a game to spare, helped along with the spectacular arm of Joe Burrow and a young and talented wide receiver room.
The 2021 Bengals could remind fans of the early Mahomes-era Chiefs, who also outmuscled teams offensively and at their best could beat any team in the league.
By contrast, the Raiders barely squeezed into the playoffs after thwarting Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 18. They have talent, too, but their most dangerous player may play on the defensive side of the ball: Maxx Crosby, who leads the league in quarterback hits and pressures.
When it comes to the playoffs, though, every team gets a blank slate, and either the Bengals or Raiders will start their postseason run with a truly watershed moment.
Cincinnati Bengals have a precious chance to make history on Saturday
Despite the Bengals being the favorites, there is one very small thing — an afterthought, more like — that could ruin Cincinnati’s plan to secure its first playoff win in 30-plus years.
As the superstitious will recount, the Bengals faced the Raiders in the divisional round of the 1991 playoffs, ultimately losing 20-10. In that game, Raiders star running back Bo Jackson tweaked his hip in the third quarter, an injury that ultimately ended Jackson’s NFL career as Jackson never touched a football again.
Coincidentally, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game ever since Jackson got injured.
If it seems like a bit of a stretch, it is, but the fact is the Bengals are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t won a game in the postseason since 1991. Even expansions teams like Carolina, Jacksonville, and Houston have won playoff games within that timespan.
1991 was a long time ago, and the Cincinnati Bengals are obviously not the same team they were before.
At the time of the “curse,” Zac Taylor would have been seven years old and Joe Burrow would have just entered kindergarten. OROY candidate Ja’Marr Chase wasn’t even born.
In the present year, the Bengals beat the Raiders 32-13 just a few months ago. Though the postseason presents a different beast altogether, Cincinnati has more surefire weapons at its disposal to defeat Las Vegas and end its playoff drought once and for all.
Curse of Bo Jackson be damned.