The Bengals are on the road for a Week 1 clash with the Raiders in Oakland, somewhere Cincinnati has never been able to claim a victory.
The Raiders have won six straight and 14 of 15 at home all-time against the Bengals, including the playoffs. However, the Bengals have taken two of the past three meetings. The two teams haven't faced each other since the 2012 season.
Oakland has an NFL-worst .292 winning percentage (56-136) since last making it to the playoffs in 2002 when they appeared in the Super Bowl. They also haven't won more than four games in any of the past three seasons.
The Raiders had one of the NFL’s worst offenses last season, ranking dead last in yards and 31st in points scored. However, they have a lot of young talent, and they should be improved in 2015 after ending last season on a fairly high note.
Derek Carr became the seventh first-year quarterback to throw for at least 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, and he was only picked off 12 times. With the addition of uber-talented receiver Amari Cooper along with the continued growth of Andre Holmes and Rod Streater, this has the potential to be a very good passing attack in 2015.
At ESPN, betting expert Dave Tuley actually thinks the Raiders getting 3.5 points is a good bet to make if that ends up being the final line since it's gone from 3-3.5 throughout the week:
Wiseguys' view: This line has gone to 3.5 a few times and the sharps have been quick to take Oakland as the home underdog. There doesn't seem to be as much interest at +3.
Tuley's Take: The Raiders were 8-8 ATS last season, so they were more competitive than their 3-13 record indicates. The addition of rookie WR Amari Cooper should make them more competitive, but this line is a little short for me.
The pick: Raiders +3 (but only a best bet at +3.5*)
CBS Sports' Will Brinson is also picking the Raiders to cover that initial 3.5-point spread and thinks the Raiders may even pull off the win:
I think the Bengals have a very nice, very complete roster and are a much better team than most people are giving them credit for. But the Raiders are sporting some interesting young talent, particularly with Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. They're going to keep this game close and might surprise some folks.
Grantland betting expert Bill Barnwell thinks the Bengals are a good bet in this one, and he's also excited to see how Tyler Eifert looks now that the third-year tight end is finally healthy and ready to explode.
Eifert was pegged as a breakout candidate last year, was targeted three times on Cincinnati’s first three possessions of Week 1, and then suffered the elbow injury that ended his season. Now he’s healthy and doesn’t have the departed Jermaine Gresham stealing targets away. The Bengals ran a bunch of packaged plays using Eifert before going away from them as the 2014 season went along; with a healthy Eifert able to stretch defenses up the seam, I wonder if Hue Jackson will go back to them.
According to the Odds Shark preview for this matchup, the Bengals were 8-7-1 against the spread last year. Here are some other betting trends for these two clubs:
- Cincinnati is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games
- The total has gone UNDER in 7 of Cincinnati's last 9 games
- Cincinnati is 6-11-1 ATS in its last 18 games on the road
- Cincinnati is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games on the road
- Oakland is 3-19 SU in its last 22 games
- The total has gone OVER in 5 of Oakland's last 6 games
- Oakland is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games at home
- Oakland is 4-8 ATS in its last 12 games at home
As for picks, the experts are mostly favoring the Bengals to go into Oakland and get a road win in Week 1. Over at CBS Sports, it's a clean sweep for the Bengals.
However, the Raiders are getting some love from a few of the experts at ESPN and the guys at SB Nation. Five of the 13 pickers at ESPN took Oakland and two of SBN's guys think the Raiders will pull off the upset at home.
Needless to say, the consensus is no longer that the Bengals will come out of this one with a win after most who looked at their schedule had this marked down as a W early on.
My prediction: The Bengals come out flat against an inferior opponent that's ready to prove these aren't the same horrendous Raiders we've seen for over a decade now. Cincinnati goes into halftime trailing before coming out like gangbusters in the second half to run past the Raiders, 27-20.
Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard combine to rush for over 150 yards and Andy Dalton throws two touchdowns, one of which should go to Eifert in his triumphant return.