Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders: Matchups, prediction for a vital AFC playoff battle

What is our prediction for this Week 11 Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders game as we break down the matchups we will see on the field?

After a disappointing few weeks for both teams, making a prediction for this Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders matchup involves several competing factors. Let’s take a look at the matchups that will decide this game before making a prediction and looking at the current betting line as the Bengals travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders prediction | Bengals offense vs. Raiders defense

It is really tough to know what to expect from the Bengals’ offense in this matchup. After averaging 35.3 points per game between Weeks 6 and 8 (including 41 points against the Baltimore Ravens), they mustered just 16 points against the Browns in Week 9. Now coming off a bye, which version of Cincinnati’s offense will we see this week?

They have an opportunity against a Raiders defense that allowed 41 points to the Chiefs in Week 10. Las Vegas’ defense ranks 26th in points allowed, having given up 20+ points in eight of nine games this season. Let’s take a look at the matchups in this game and who has the advantage in each one.

Joe Burrow vs. Raiders defense

It has been an intriguing season for Joe Burrow leading the Bengals offense. Burrow ranks in the top five of the league in completion rate (68.2%), touchdown rate (7%), yards per pass attempt (8.7), aggression rate (21%, per Next Gen Stats), and completion percentage above expectation (4.8%).

Burrow sits as the most valuable QB to his respective offense this season, according to PFN’s Offensive Value Metric. However, his numbers have not come without mistakes. Burrow is tied for the league lead in interceptions (11) and is among the bottom five in interception rate (3.8%). His performances in the past five weeks are demonstrative of his season. In that time, he completed 65.4% of his passes for 1,509 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions.

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The Raiders defense presents an intriguing test for Burrow. In terms of passer rating allowed, they are marginally above average. But they have been a team that opposing passers can exploit. Las Vegas’ 5.1% touchdown rate is ninth-worst in the NFL, while their interception rate (1.2%) is fifth-worst in the league.

What the Raiders have done defensively is limit the overall impact of opposing passing games. Las Vegas’ defense is allowing just 6.6 yards per pass attempt, the fifth-best number in the league. This is a matchup between an offense that is not afraid to be aggressive and a defense that likes to sit deep and let the plays evolve in front of them. It will be a fascinating matchup.

Advantage: Push

Bengals skill-position weapons vs. Raiders secondary and linebackers

The Bengals have leaned heavily on their rookie wide receiver, Ja’Marr Chase. His numbers have been impressive, especially after the catch. Next Gen Stats place Chase as the second-best in the league in yards after catch above expectation. His skills after the catch will test the skills of this Raiders defense to the fullest.

Cincinnati has shared the opportunities after Chase between Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Higgins has 57 targets, while Boyd has 55. They each have 2 touchdowns, and while Higgins has been more efficient in yards per reception (12.3), it is Boyd who has been more reliable in terms of catch rate (69.1%). The Bengals have also relied on TE C.J. Uzomah and RBs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine to help them move the chains — they’ve combined for 69 targets.

The loss of injured CB Trayvon Mullen has hurt the Raiders’ secondary, but they’ve still had good contributors this year. Casey Hayward has allowed just 13 completions on 28 targets at 10.1 yards per completion, 0 touchdowns, and a 60.3 passer rating. Brandon Facyson has largely been impressive, but he is boom or bust, allowing 13.1 yards per completion and 3 touchdowns.

Rookie Nate Hobbs is having a strange year. He is allowing an 86.8% completion rate but just 7.5 yards per completion and 0 touchdowns on those 38 targets. Amik Robertson has struggled badly this season, but his hip injury may force him out of the lineup at times this week. Down the middle, Cory Littleton has been impressive, but Denzel Perryman and Johnathan Abram have both struggled.

Advantage: Push

Bengals offensive line vs. Raiders defensive front

The Bengals’ offensive line has produced mixed performances this season. While their line is not moving mountains in the run game, their main running backs both average over 4 yards per rush attempt. The passing game is where this line will be judged, and the results have been less than stellar. Burrow is consistently under pressure and is among the bottom 10 in the league in sack rate.

This matchup is intriguing because the Raiders’ defensive front is good without being great. They are a bottom-10 unit against the run, allowing 4.5 yards per rush. Moreover, they’ve given up over 100 rushing yards in seven of nine games this year. Rushing the passer, they are essentially a league-average unit. They are 11th in pressure rate (26%), 19th in hurry rate (9.8%), and tied for 16th in sack rate (5.9%).

Advantage: Push

Las Vegas Raiders offense vs. Cincinnati Bengals defense

The Raiders offense has fallen off a cliff since their bye week. Heading into the bye, they averaged 33.5 points per game. But coming out of it, Las Vegas has managed a total of just 30 points in the last two games. Turnovers have been a large part of the problem — Vegas has posted as many giveaways in the past two weeks as in the previous seven games combined.

The Bengals defense has struggled in each of the last two weeks. They’ve given up 37.5 points per game in the last two after averaging just 14 points allowed in the previous two. Coming off a bye week, they will hope their defense can get back to the level of performance that held the Ravens to just 17 points. Let’s break down the matchups in this intriguing battle between two stalling units.

Derek Carr vs. Bengals defense

The last two weeks are not the first blips that Derek Carr has had this season. His OVM dropped off between Weeks 4 and 5 before rebounding in Week 6. He had a similar drop-off after the bye, but we’ve already seen his capability of turning it around this season.

Interestingly, Carr’s four worst performances, according to OVM, have been in the Raiders’ losses. Thus, his performance has been key for Las Vegas. One concern has been the way he was floating some of his passes against the Chiefs. If that continues this week, then questions will start to be raised about a potential underlying issue.

The Bengals defense gives Carr a chance to make amends. They are among the bottom 10 in completion rate allowed (67.3%). However, they sit just outside the top 10 in passer rating allowed because of their ability to limit big plays.

Cincinnati is tied for 10th in the league in yards per attempt. Meanwhile, they sit as the fourth-best unit in touchdown rate (3.4%). They are not a particular opportunistic defense, with just a 2% interception rate and 9% turnover rate. This is yet another fascinating matchup where the winner will likely decide the game.

Advantage: Push

Raiders skill-position weapons vs. Bengals secondary and linebackers

The receiving skills of Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow are clear to see. Waller has caught 62% of his targets for 494 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is a huge X-factor and an absolute matchup nightmare for opponents. Renfrow is a fantastic route runner and has a great pair of hands. He has caught 75.4% of his targets for 494 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Bryan Edwards appears to be a key element for the Raiders’ offense. He is only averaging 4 targets per game, but his average depth of target (aDOT) of 15.9 yards makes him a considerable threat for opposing defenses. His skill set, combined with that of the newly-acquired DeSean Jackson, gives the Raiders two important weapons on the outside who can stretch opposing defenses.

The Bengals have had mixed play from their secondary and linebackers this year. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and linebacker Logan Wilson have impressed in different ways. Awuzie has allowed a completion rate of just 53.6%, and despite giving up 2 touchdowns, has a passer rating allowed of just 71.4. Wilson has 4 interceptions but is allowing an 85.4% completion rate at 10.9 yards per completion.

Eli Apple and Mike Hilton have both struggled this year. Apple has allowed a 64.6% completion rate at 11.2 yards per completion and 2 touchdowns. Hilton has allowed completions at a rate of 74.5%, a passer rating of 105.5, and given up 2 touchdowns. Their safeties — Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell — have also both had their issues in coverage this season. The Raiders’ passing game has the chance to exploit these matchups with Waller, Edwards, Renfrow, and Jackson.

Advantage: Raiders

Raiders offensive line vs. Bengals defensive front

The Raiders’ offensive line has been a tough unit to judge. They have talented running backs behind them in Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake, but neither has been able to have consistent success. Usually, that would point to major concerns with the front five, but there are no major failings when you watch the film. Las Vegas’ line is better when pass blocking, but the overall performance has been league average at best.

The Bengals’ defensive front has, in contrast, been slightly above average. They are allowing just 4.2 yards per rush attempt and 100.9 yards per game. They are league average in pressure rate (25.4%) and marginally above average in sack rate (6.2%). However, they have been able to rush the opposing quarterback, with a hurry rate of 13.4% (fourth-best in the league).

Advantage: Push

Bengals at Raiders prediction and betting line

It is intriguing that the Bengals are 1-point favorites heading into this game. They appear to be getting the benefit of the doubt, given that the Raiders’ crushing loss to the Chiefs is fresher in the memory than the Bengals’ loss to the Browns. However, teams coming off a bye are 7-9 this season, which makes it more confusing as to why Cincinnati is the favorite on the road.

This game is a crucial contest in the AFC playoff picture. The team that loses will have lost three straight and will have little room for error in the playoff race down the stretch. Neither team stands out as being significantly better than the other.

Most of these matchups hang in the balance, with the Raiders’ skill position players being their main point of advantage. With home-field advantage, and the sloppiness we have seen coming off a bye, the Raiders just get the edge — but this game could very easily come down to the final possession.

Bengals vs. Raiders Prediction: Raiders 24, Bengals 23

*Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise stated.

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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