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5 Bengals to watch for against the Raiders

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Joe Mixon and William Jackson each put together a tremendous game against the Chargers, can they keep their momentum going against the Raiders?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Chargers The Cincinnati Enquirer-USA TODA

The Bengals are favored to win an actual NFL football game. This statement reeks of depression considering where they were two months ago, but this is where we’re at. Luckily, the Bengals have shown they can be competitive again after they seemed to forget how for the past several weeks. Part of that is due to emergence of a few surprise players and he re-emergence of some well known commodities on the roster.

Here are the five players you should be focused on when the Bengals take on the Raiders this Sunday.

Joe Mixon

If last Sunday told us anything, it’s that this offense will now go as Mixon does. 31 touches against the Chargers gave Mixon a career high in that category, and it was the first time since the Bengals last won a game in Week 8 against the Buccaneers that Mixon received over 20 touches. The Bengals lost this time, which surely humbled the “20 carries = Bengals win” crowd, but offensive coordinator Bill Lazor seems to know where the strength in his offense lies now in December with his starting quarterback and superstar wide receiver both on injured reserve.

The Raiders offer a slightly worse run defense than the Chargers, as they allow the seventh-worst run success rate to the Chargers’ ninth-worst rate. Expect the ball to end up in Mixon’s hands a healthy amount of times for the second week in a row.

Cody Core

In the last two weeks, Core ranks third in targets (8), receiving yards (60), and has one of the two touchdowns quarterback Jeff Driskel has thrown since he took over for Andy Dalton. He’s accumulated these numbers despite being tied for fourth in receptions (4) since A.J. Green went down for good against the Broncos.

As the team’s fourth receiver on the depth chart, this production is not earth-shattering by any means, but the mistakes Core has made on limited opportunity earlier in the season diminished the expectations of him to nearly zero. Core’s relative success of late has been enjoyable considering where he was, and it’ll be interesting to see if it continues. As they say this time of year, any time the ball goes Core’s way and it’s complete, an angel gets its wings.

Christian Ringo

Despite Christian Westerman’s continued exceptionalism when he gets to play, Ringo looked like the best lineman on either side of the ball against the Chargers, and we went over his superb performance extensively on Wednesday in the latest Weekly Lineman.

Ringo has played 31 snaps in his first two games with Cincinnati, and if he keeps balling out, Marvin Lewis has no choice but to keep giving him opportunities, especially with the limited depth remaining on the defensive line. The Raiders’ offensive line also figures to be banged up this Sunday, giving Ringo an even bigger chance to build a resume for himself.

William Jackson

While he’s allowed a few more big plays down the field this season, Jackson has still been a quality defender in this defense. The expectations from his dominant campaign last year has aided in the perception that he’s been slacking this year. When your defense gets torched over the middle all game and you only get targeted a few times a game as a result, things are going to seem different than they really are.

The Bengals’ No. 1 cornerback completely smothered the Chargers’ top receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams when matched up one-on-one last Sunday and put together his best game of 2018. If momentum exists (it does, very much so), then going from Philip Rivers to Derek Carr and Allen and Williams to *adjusts glasses* Marcell Ateman and Jordy Nelson of the Raiders should net another great outing from Jackson.

Brandon Wilson

Yes, special teams are fun to watch when Wilson is on your team. No one is playing better on punt teams and on kickoffs than Wilson is right now, and his team-leading four tackles on special teams since the team’s Week 9 bye is indicative of that.

To be quite frank, he’s been a wrecking ball of late:

And yes, he did draw that flag for holding.

Wilson is becoming the special teamer the team envisioned him to be when they traded up for him on the third day of the 2017 NFL Draft. More importantly, he’s making special teams fun to watch when the Bengals give up possession. And that’s truly something.