It is Super Wild Card Weekend and the Cincinnati Bengals are playing in Paul Brown Stadium this weekend. Cincinnati has a good opportunity to win a playoff game for the first time since 1991 against the Las Vegas Raiders. In order for that to happen, the Bengals are going to need some players to step up on both offense and defense.
The most obvious is Joe Burrow. This team will go as Burrow goes. As of recently, there is no reason to believe that he will not play well and lead his team to victory. He has been playing out of his mind over the last two games where the Bengals needed victory. The undisputed leader of this team, Burrow is going to need to put in another solid performance.
One of the keys will be his ability to distribute the ball to each of his receivers to make sure the Raiders are off-balance throughout the game. If Burrow can involve Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd as well as Ja’Marr Chase, this is going to be a dangerous team.
Outside of Burrow, the following are players who need to step up for the Bengals to win.
Ja’Marr Chase has been the poster boy for the Cincinnati receivers this year, and for good reason. He has been one of the best rookie wide receivers of all time and is the number one threat for Joe Burrow. However, in this game, Tee Higgins is going to be the man.
Higgins will have more opportunities to exploit one-on-one matchups due to the damage Chase can inflict. This will be important for him to gain separation and take his game to another level. A red hot Higgins, coupled with Chase makes for an unstoppable duo at wideout.
The only thing Burrow could put on his wishlist this year is a little more time in the pocket. Now that every game is survive and advance, the offensive line is going to play a critical role in giving this offense just enough time to make plays.
This week, Jonah Williams will take on a critical role in keeping the pocket clean. Really, any of the offensive linemen could be in this spot, but making sure Burrow does not have to worry about his blindside is the top priority for this unit and that starts with Williams.
For the Bengals to win against the Raiders, they are going to make sure they slow down Josh Jacobs and the powerful Las Vegas rushing attack. The best way they will be able to do that, is if D.J. Reader has a big game for the stripes.
Reader was originally signed by the Bengals to be a run-stopping force and that is exactly what he has turned into. His ability to blow plays up through the middle is exactly what he needs to do on Saturday. If the Bengals can turn the Raiders into a one-dimensional offense, they will have a good chance to win.
Derek Carr does not get the chance to play in the cold very often and when he has, the results have not been good for him. The visitors from Las Vegas are going to be out of their element adapting to a cold Cincinnati winter’s day.
On top of that, Carr has shown tendencies to throw plenty of picks this season. The Bengals will win this game if they can get an advantage in the turnover department and I would look for Awuzie to pick off an errant pass or two. His ability to make a big play could be the difference between a win and a loss for Cincinnati.
Burrow is obviously the biggest key to victory for Cincinnati but outside of him, these four players have to play their best game of the season if the good guys want to advance in the playoffs for the first time in 31 years.