NFL Wild Card Weekend Best Bets: Why I’ll Back Raiders In Carr’s Playoff Debut

Written By Eli Hershkovich on January 14, 2022

With the playoffs approaching this weekend, let’s dig into my NFL wild card best bets for Raiders at Bengals — less than a week after Las Vegas nearly gushed its own city’s sportsbooks by almost Chargers in the Week 18 finale.

Click on the odds below to place a bet now. You can continue the discussion in our betting community, as we break down all of the games throughout the week.

Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

As noted in my Steelers-Chiefs betting breakdown, playoffs teams with all-time low point-differentials have excelled during wild-card weekend — both against the spread and straight-up. But why is that worth considering for this matchup?

YearTeamPoint DifferentialATS (Result)Straight-Up
2017Bills (at Jaguars)-57+8 (W)Loss
2016Texans (vs. Raiders)-49-4 (W)Win
2011 Broncos (vs. Steelers)-81+7.5 (W)Win
2010Seahawks (vs. Saints)-97+10 (W)Win
2004Rams (at Seahawks)-73+4 (W)Win
1998Cardinals (at Cowboys)-53+7 (W)Win
1989Steelers (at Oilers)-61+7 (W)Win
1978Falcons (vs. Eagles)-50-2.5 (L)Win

Rich Bisaccia’s bunch owns the league’s worst point-differential (-65), which is noted when accounting for the factors that go into a team’s power rating. The latter ultimately helps produce a point spread, and this line appears inflated.

Moreover, keep in mind that the spread closed Bengals -1 when these teams squared off in Week 11. Although Cincinnati dominated Las Vegas in the fourth quarter — en route to a 19-point win — should the line for the rematch have opened with Zac Taylor’s unit as a 6.5-point home favorite? Probably not.

In their first meeting, the Raiders outgained the opposition in yards per play (5.9) despite falling short. Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr struggled to find a rhythm too, but the Bengals’ pass defense is a bit overvalued as a whole, surrendering the 13th-lowest dropback success rate (SR) while facing second-easiest schedule of opposing aerial attacks.

  • SR showcases whether a play is successful if a team gains:
    • 50 percent of the yards needed to move the chains on first down
    • 70 percent of yards to gain on second down
    • 100 percent of yards to gain on third or fourth down

Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has seen his back-seven give up chunk plays over the middle of the field, allowing the ninth-highest passing SR to tight ends in that area. Expect a bounce-back performance from Carr in his first career playoff game, and tight end Darren Waller should have another monster showing on deck after posting seven grabs (via eight targets) for 116 yards on Nov. 21.

Now, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow could undoubtedly torch the Raiders’ secondary if he’s given time. Nevertheless, Cincinnati’s offensive line possesses the NFL’s third-worst pass block win rate, tracking how often linemen retain their assignments for at most 2.5 seconds. Couple with that with Las Vegas’ prowess for creating pressure with just their front-four, and Burrow may ultimately force the ball a bit.

On top of that, the Raiders were tagged with seven penalties for 77 yards (five on defense) in the first go-around — compared to a single five-yard infraction on Cincinnati. Jerome Boger will be donning the zebra suit once again, yet that’s a category that should come closer to evening out.

According to Mo Nuwwarah, a fellow betting analyst for TheLines, the Bengals are power rated as the fifth-worst playoff team. There’s value in backing the road team over a possession.

Eli’s Bet: Raiders +5.5 (-110; placed on Thursday night at DraftKings Sportsbook)
NFL Wild Card Best Bets: Raiders +4.5 or better
Best Available Line: Raiders

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Eli Hershkovich Avatar
Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

View all posts by Eli Hershkovich