The 4 groups headlining Saturday’s N.F.L. wild-card doubleheader know one another nicely.
The Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals met in November amid a three-game skid for the Raiders. The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, two A.F.C. East rivals, met twice in the common season, splitting these video games 1-1 with every workforce profitable on its opponent’s dwelling discipline.
A rematch and the ultimate sport in this season’s trilogy awaits. Here’s a have a look at the matchups that can kick off the primary week of the 2022 N.F.L. playoffs.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals
4:30 p.m., NBC
The Raiders (10-7) had little time to have a good time their chaotic win over the Chargers final week, which clinched Las Vegas a playoff berth because the No. 5 seed in the A.F.C. The Raiders will face a Cincinnati Bengals offense that has bulldozed its method to the postseason and has the No. 4 seed.
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati’s unquestioned quarterback of the longer term, was one of many league’s greatest passers in the latter half of the common season because the Bengals (10-7) began utilizing a extra pass-heavy sport plan. Burrow threw for over 300 yards in three of his final 4 video games, finishing over 60 p.c of his passes in every of these matchups. Plenty of that success has been as a result of Burrow is throwing to large receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who has been as stable a security web as any quarterback may need.
2021 N.F.L. Season News and Analysis
Many questioned the Bengals’ resolution to decide Chase at No. 5 total in the 2021 draft as a substitute of offensive deal with Penei Sewell (a prime offensive line prospect), and Chase did little to quell that skepticism with an underwhelming preseason marked by dropped balls. Since then, nevertheless, Chase has all however run away with the offensive rookie of the 12 months award, proving that these early season overreactions had been simply that. He led the Bengals in receptions (81), yards (1,455) and touchdowns (13) in the common season and caught 11 passes for over 200 yards in Cincinnati’s win over the Chiefs, which knocked Kansas City out of the highest spot in the A.F.C.
Although the mixture of Burrow, Chase and receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd has been a tricky task for opposing defenses in current weeks, the Raiders’ protection largely suppressed Cincinnati’s passing assault when the groups met in Week 11, a matchup the Bengals received. Burrow handed for a season-low 148 yards and had only a single landing in a sport that was a lot nearer than the ultimate rating of 32-13 indicated.
Las Vegas’s energy on protection is up entrance, the place Maxx Crosby, the Raiders Pro Bowl edge rusher, thrives in affecting the passer. Crosby didn’t get to Burrow in the groups’ first assembly, although Las Vegas sacked him thrice. Yannick Ngakoue, the Raiders different disruptive defensive finish, logged a strip-sack fumble on the Bengals’ first drive of that sport. Las Vegas ought to have little bother producing stress in opposition to a Cincinnati offensive line that struggles in move safety (Burrow was essentially the most sacked quarterback in the common season).
A big majority of gamers on each of those groups have by no means performed in a playoff sport. The Raiders hadn’t made the postseason since 2016 they usually final received a playoff sport in 2002. If the Bengals win at Paul Brown Stadium, it’ll be their first playoff victory in over 30 years.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
8:15 p.m., CBS
The Bills (11-6) received 4 of their final 5 video games of the common season to lock up the A.F.C.’s No. 3 seed. The Patriots (10-7) went 2-3 to shut out the season and ended with the No. 6 seed.
They’ll meet at Highmark Stadium on Saturday the place the temperature is anticipated to be in the only digits with a wind chill round destructive 10 to 15 by kickoff.
That means this sport may look lots like when the groups met in early December, when the Patriots’ rookie quarterback Mac Jones tried simply three passes in a blustery, run-heavy matchup in New York. New England received, 14-10, with over 200 yards on the bottom.
The Patriots could possibly be with out beginning cornerback Jalen Mills, who was added to the reserve/Covid-19 listing Tuesday, which might be problematic for a secondary already missing in depth on the nook place.
New England traded Pro Bowl defensive again Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers throughout coaching camp. The Patriots’ slot cornerback Jonathan Jones had season-ending shoulder surgical procedure in October. Mills and cornerback J.C. Jackson have been the centerpieces of the Patriots’ skinny secondary.
Still, the Patriots’ protection allowed solely 17.8 factors per sport, the second lowest whole in the league (Buffalo allowed 17.0). The Bills ended the common season with one of many N.F.L.’s greatest defensive items, main the league in a number of defensive classes, together with fewest yards allowed per sport and fewest passing yards allowed.
In the groups’ second assembly, the Bills pressured one in every of Jones’s worst performances of the 12 months in a double-digit win. Jones accomplished 14 of 32 passes and threw two interceptions in the sport.
Buffalo’s offense, headed by quarterback Josh Allen, has been inconsistent this season, however the specter of the connection between Allen and large receiver Stefon Diggs stays. In that Gillette Stadium win, Diggs had six catches for 85 yards and a landing.