The Raiders and Bengals will clash in the first playoff game of the season. The game offers several fascinating match ups to keep on eye on throughout. While the Bengals ran away with the first meeting between these two teams, the Raiders kept it close until late in the 4th. Both teams are looking to break a long playoff drought, but only one can emerge victorious on Saturday.
Ja’Marr Chase Vs Casey Hayward Jr.
Ja’Marr Chase has become one of the leagues premier deep threats in his rookie season. The first round pick out of LSU finished 4th in receiving yards with 1,455, 3rd in touchdowns with 13, and 2nd in yards per catch with an 18 yard average. Chase has been a nightmare for opposing secondaries all season, and is by far and away Joe Burrow’s favorite target, especially when it comes to throwing the deep ball. However, one corner in particular managed to contain Chase during the regular season, limiting him to just 3 catches for 32 yards.
Casey Hayward Jr. has locked down number 1 wide receivers all year for the Raiders. Hayward not only guarded Chase particularly well in the their week 11 match up, but has managed to shadow every opponents best pass catcher with great success. The Raiders top corner has allowed just 32 completions on 56 targets, for a grand total of 427 yards allowed on the season. If Vegas has any hope of slowing down one of the league’s best receivers, Hayward must play a key role and continue to play excellent coverage.
Raiders Pass Rush Vs Bengals Offensive Line
The Raiders pass rush has become one of the most feared in the league. Notorious for their ability to get pressure only rushing 4, the defensive line lead by Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue has been nightmare fuel for quarterbacks throughout the 2021 season. Crosby leads the NFL in QB pressures with 42, and the two defensive ends have combined for 18 sacks. One way to prevent long pass plays from developing is to get pressure on the quarterback, so the front 4 for the Raiders will need to go after Burrow early and often.
On the other side of things, the Bengals offensive line has been mediocre at best when it comes to protecting the quarterback. The Bengals have a given up 55 sacks this year, third worst in the NFL. A particular spotlight will fall on Right Tackle Isaiah Prince, as he will likely be matched up with Crosby for a majority of the game. The Bengals offense relies heavily on the deep passing attack, so protecting Burrow is a must if Cincinnati is to move on in the playoffs.
Hunter Renfrow Vs The Entire Bengals Secondary
Hunter Renfrow has somehow managed to carry the entire Raider receiving core on his back for the majority of the season. Renfrow has amassed 103 catches for over 1,000 yards, and has continuously come through in clutch situations for Las Vegas.
Teams have tried multiple strategies when it comes to guarding one of the best slot receivers in the league, but very few have worked. Renfrow’s elite route running and great hands have made him a dangerous short yardage target. The Bengals will have to stop him on 3rd and short situations, as well as in the red zone, if they want to truly shut down the Raider offense.
The Bengals do have options when it comes to covering Renfrow. Linebacker Logan Wilson has been fairly impressive in coverage, grabbing 4 interceptions this season. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie leads the team with 14 passes defensed, so Cincinnati could possibly move him to the slot on crucial plays. No matter how the Bengals decide to approach Hunter Renfrow, it will likely take more than one player to guard him effectively in this game.
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