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Wild-Card Weekend Betting Preview and Best Bet: Raiders-Bengals

Analysis and a best bet for Saturday's Wild-Card matchup featuring the AFC North champion Bengals hosting the Raiders.

Wild-Card Weekend kicks off its six-game slate on Saturday afternoon when Joe Burrow and the Bengals play host to Derek Carr and the Raiders.

Check Wild-Card Weekend Lines at SI Sportsbook

Las Vegas grabbed the No. 5 seed in the AFC after a thrilling 35-32 overtime win over the Chargers on Sunday night. The Raiders finished second in the AFC West with a 10-7 straight-up (SU) record but were unprofitable for bettors to support with an accompanying 8-9 against the spread (ATS) mark. The Raiders, who are 5-3 SU and 4-4 ATS on the road, will look to extend their recent four-game winning streak. Back in Week 11, the Raiders lost to the Bengals 32-13 as 2.5-point home favorites.

Meanwhile, No. 4 Cincinnati earned home field in this first round matchup thanks to winning the AFC North after posting a 10-7 SU record, which also returned a solid profit for sports investors with an identical 10-7 ATS mark. The Bengals head into the postseason having won three of their last four games. Their lone defeat came last week when they rested the majority of their starters against the Browns.

A question bettors will be forced to answer is just how healthy is Joe Burrow’s knee? He suffered an injury late in the club’s win over Kansas City in Week 17. Burrow was able to rest his knee for two weeks in preparation for this game, but Cincinnati has not protected their star signal well this season. The Bengals franchise player was sacked the most (51) of any quarterback in the NFL this season. On the flip side, he will now face a fierce Raiders pass rush led by Max Crosby and Yannick Najakoue who have combined for 18 sacks this season.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow celebrates after the Bengals defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 34-31 in an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati.

No. 5 Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) at No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)

Spread: Las Vegas +5.5 (-110) | Cincinnati -5.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Las Vegas (+205) | Cincinnati (-250)
Total: 48.5– Over (-110) | Under 49 (-110)
Public (Spread) Betting Percentages: LVR 39% | CIN 61%
Game Info: Saturday Jan. 15, 2022 | 8:15 p.m. ET | NBC

Editor's Note - Odds are subject to change

The line has dropped since the opener of Cincinnati (10-7 SU; 10-7 ATS) as 6.5-point home favorites over Las Vegas (10-7 SU; 8-9 ATS) to just a 5.5-point demand at SI Sportsbook. The total which opened at 48 has ticked up to 49 following strong respected opinions that the two clubs, who both possess top-seven passing offenses, will surpass the 45 points scored in the first matchup between the clubs in November.

The Raiders, who have defied oddsmakers of late, will look to improve their recent streak of 4-1 ATS record as underdogs on Saturday afternoon. Quarterback Derek Carr has been an inspirational leader both on and off the field for a club that has faced the most adversity of any club this season. In addition to cutting ties with head coach Jon Gruden, the Silver and Black were also forced to release star wideout Henry Ruggs III as a result of multiple pending felony charges stemming from a deadly DUI crash in November. Carr was instrumental in holding the club together despite the off the field distractions that resulted in a stretch that witnessed five losses in six games. The eight-year veteran led the club to four consecutive victories over the Browns, Broncos, Colts and Chargers to close out the season.

Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson, center, celebrates after kicking the game-winning field goal against the Los Angeles Chargers during overtime of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Las Vegas.

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In the passing attack, Las Vegas features the reliable Hunter Renfrow, who led the club with 103 receptions for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns. The shifty slot wideout has been a model of consistency having posted five-plus receptions in nine consecutive games. Last week, the Raiders welcomed back star tight end Darren Waller for the first time since suffering a knee injury in Week 12. Waller played 78% of the offensive snaps but struggled to find his stride hauling in only two of nine targets for 22 yards. The Raiders will need Waller to have an impact similar to the first meeting with the Bengals in Week 11, when he hauled in seven receptions for a season-high 116 yards.

On the ground, Las Vegas will feature Josh Jacobs who finished ninth among all running backs with nine rushing touchdowns. Jacobs could find tough sledding against a Cincinnati rush defense that ranked fifth in the NFL allowing only 102.5 yards per game on the ground.

On the other side of the ball, Joe Burrow pilots an explosive offensive attack that ranks seventh in scoring averaging 27.1 points per game. Burrow, who finished eighth among all quarterbacks with 34 touchdown passes, has been unstoppable the last two games. The second-year signal caller finished the regular season throwing for 971 yards and eight touchdowns in wins over the Ravens and Chiefs.

At his disposal, Burrow has a trio of weapons in wideouts Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins as well as running Joe Mixon.

Chase, who is the favorite to garner Rookie of the Year honors, broke Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson (1,400) rookie record set last season with a new benchmark of 1,455 yards. The dynamic wideout also had a nose for the end zone finishing third among all wide receivers with 13 receiving touchdowns. On the other side of the formation, Higgins was once again solid in his sophomore campaign, posting new career highs in receptions (74) and receiving yards (1,091). The former Clemson standout was tremendous down the stretch of the regular season averaging 6.2 receptions and 107.5 receiving yards over his last six games.

On the ground, Mixon has emerged as the bell-cow back in the Bengals' rushing attack and has produced stellar production. The fifth-year back finished third in the NFL in rushing yards (1.205) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (13). Mixon was a key factor in the Week 11 win over Las Vegas, rushing for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

Dating back to 1991, Cincinnati has lost eight consecutive playoff games and will have immense pressure in front of its home fans to finally end the drought. We know that the Bengals have more elite offensive weapons, but the Raiders are the ones drawing respected action in Las Vegas in this opening clash of Super Wild Card Weekend.

BET: Las Vegas +6 (-118) (Buy half-point)

SI BET REVIEW

2021 SI Betting Monday Night Football: 9-8 ATS / Props 16-12 +5.75 units
2021 SI Betting NFL Football Overall YTD: 45-37 ATS & Props +11.12 Units
2020 SI Betting NFL Football: 72-58-1 ATS (55%)

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