A tidal wave of bravado and confidence has crashed through the Cincinnati river valley, fueled by the legendary comeback against the Chiefs that now puts the Cincinnati Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium for a goshdern playoff game this weekend.
Many outsiders would say that the collective optimism and stratospheric approval rating of the team could be misplaced based on the history of everything at hand, and that such brash certainty of advancing must be earned and not immediately expected. The Bengals fan knowingly ignores this sentiment and parties on anyway.
What’s going on feels different than ever before. This team embraces the big moments rather than shrinks. There is no emotional volatility like there used to be. The entire organization seems in control and doing things right this time. It’s weird.
Then there is their opponent.
The Las Vegas Raiders are a capable NFL team that if matched with a lackluster performance, they can win. Derek Carr is fine. Josh Jacobs is fine. Darren Waller is good but hasn’t played much recently. Their defense is okay, but they do have one guy, Maxx Crosby. He is the only thing Bengal fans are truly worried about in this game.
Crosby lurks in the dark recesses of doubt that have been largely untouched all season for the Bengal fan. He came closer to anyone else this season to hitting Joe Burrow’s knee too hard again last time they played. He’s scary, and he’s going up against Isaiah Prince, which is a major mismatch.
The good news is that the Bengals might be able to run the ball 40 times, and if Gus Bradley wants to take away the deep shots, there is plenty of YAC to be had in the short zone pockets. Let’s see if the Raiders can tackle in the flats, because if not, Maxx Crosby can be neutralized, and the Bengals can steer themselves into a boring win with lots of field goals.
If we witness another Bengals blowout at home with points and yardage explosions all over the place, then we’re talking about a whole other class of football team. Not because they would have done so against the Raiders, but more because they keep doing it and on bigger and bigger stages.
Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter how it happens, just so that it happens. And once it does, we’re all freed into a forgotten wilderness of football possibility. It’s going to be great, and I’m leaving it at that.
Bengals 23, Raiders 17
Mojokong – burning playoff logs.