The Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) host their first playoff game since 2015 on Saturday at 4:30 PM EST against the surging Las Vegas Raiders. The Bengals identity as a team has been summed up throughout the season, but here are the three biggest questions for Bengals if they want to end their 30+ year playoff win drought.
3. How will offensive line fair against solid defensive front/pass rush?
This will likely be the most significant question mark answered throughout the game. The Bengals’ biggest weakness is the offensive line. It has improved since last year, but it still is severely weak, and Joe Burrow has been sacked over 50 times this year, which is at the top of the league.
The Raiders also pry themselves on their strong defensive line with pro bowler Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. Although, in their thrilling overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night, they lost a crucial player in the interior of the defensive line losing Darius Philon for the rest of the season with a significant knee injury.
Philon was flying under the radar but was praised multiple times during the game and the Raiders’ late-season win streak as a vital part of the run defense. This shouldn’t factor into the pass rush so much, but it will be interesting to see how is running Joe Mixon in between the tackles with Philon off the field.
At the end of the day, if Cincinnati wants to win this game, they will not let up 4-5 sacks, multiple QB hits, and negative plays on a consistent basis. If there is any time to play clean, positive football, this would be the game.
If Burrow has time in the pocket, there will be a lot of confidence that he can make throws against this secondary just like Justin Herbert did. The Bengals beat the Raiders during the regular season 32-13, but it was 13-13 heading into the fourth quarter, which is something to keep in mind.