Doc's Morning Line: Final prediction for Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Ja'Marr Chase set the Bengals' single-season receiving yards record, but came in second in jersey sales at the Bengals Pro Shop.
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Two days and a few hours, kids. Tingling yet?

The Bengals, who got no love for years, even when they were winning, are amassing serious fondness now. They’re the sexy pick to make the AFC title game. (And lose to the Chiefs in KC. Even the obsessed aren’t completely crazy.)

The majority of The Ringer’s staff of football know-it-alls has the Men beating Vegas and Tennessee. The Titans will have Derrick Henry back, and Julio Jones and they didn’t get the top AFC seed by beating Detroit 12 times. But Saint Joe and the win over KC has the experts drooling.

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The Ringer: The Bengals aren’t perfect, but they’re a buzz saw on offense at the moment and that gives them a puncher’s chance in a single-elimination tournament. If head coach Zac Taylor lets loose this weekend against the Raiders and Burrow does his thing (with the help, of course, of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon), Cincy should be in good shape.

The Athletic, in a story about hiring the right head coach:

Among the 20 teams that have made it to the conference championship over the past five years, 19 (95 percent!) finished in the top 10 in offensive DVOA. And 14 (70 percent!) finished in the top five. Over that same period, six (30 percent) finished in the top 10 in defensive DVOA, and five (25 percent) finished in the top five.

That doesn’t mean defense is unimportant. But a great offense with a below-average defense generally profiles to a contending team. A great defense with a below-average offense does not.

I’ve said this forever. Playoff success is about offense. It’s a QB’s league and until Rodgers, Brady or Mahomes slides across the line to rush off the edge, it will always be about offense.

(I say the same about March Madness. Tell me which teams can score, I’ll tell you who shows up at the Final 4.)

Balance? Balance doesn’t help much when you’re down 6 with two minutes to play and no timeouts.

Defense might help get you to the mountain. Offense gets you to the summit.

Maybe we’ve forgotten already that KC scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions in the 1st half two weeks ago. Props to the Bengals D for damming that raging river in the 2nd half. But the offense won the game.

Burrow is the hottest QB in the league, at the absolute best time to be hot. Beyond the obvious numbers, one thing he has done exceedingly well is avoid the rush. As his confidence in his surgically fixed knee has grown, so has his friskiness. It has been amazing how adept Burrow has been at avoiding a constant onslaught of rushers.

ALONG THOSE LINES. . . Pro Football Focus says this in its final rankings of the league’s offensive lines:

The Raiders, who PFF ranks No. 28: It’s remarkable that the Raiders made the postseason with this offensive line.

The 20th-ranked Bengals:

The Bengals' offensive line is vastly improved from a season ago, but the last few weeks of the regular season showed how fragile that is – and how quickly it can become a problem if injuries arise. Jonah Williams has been impressive at left tackle, earning a 77.9 PFF grade, even if he has a tendency to lose badly when he does lose (he has allowed eight sacks).

Quinton Spain has played some of his best football, and there were other positive contributors, but not one member of the line played all 17 games, and the play of the backups has been problematic in some cases. Of the 11 players the team has used for 50 or more snaps, seven of them carry sub-58.0 PFF grades.

ONE BENGALS NON-BELIEVER is USA Today’s Jarrett Bell:

Impressive that Zac Taylor, Joe Burrow, JaMarr Chase and Co. ruled the AFC North and have some serious offensive explosiveness. But consistency is not their calling card. This young, upstart team must prove it can be trusted as intensity rises in the playoffs. And the Raiders, with Derek Carr playing the best football of his career, should make them so wary.

PREDICTION. . . The Bengals are better than Las Vegas, playing at home, healthy and didn’t have to fight a war last Sunday night just to make the postseason. A nice dress rehearsal for a game in Nashville next weekend. Men 24, Raiders 13.

AS FOR XAVIER LAST NIGHT. . .

There aren’t a lot of college basketball teams I’ll stop what I’m doing to watch. Villanova has been one, ever since Jay Wright started coaching them some 17 years ago. The Wildcats play with a tough, smart elegance that pulls me in.

It’s their guards. I joked in today’s TM column that ‘Nova must have a secret factory near campus that assembles guards the way a diamond-cutter shaves stone. ‘Nova is never without very good guards:

ReynoldsLowryWaynsRayFoyeHartBrunsonGillespieGillespie. Ryan Arcidiacono’s kid brother is there now.

Collin Gillespie, younger bro of Connor, is the latest prototype Villanova Guard. He had a lot to do with the Wildcats’ 64-60 W at Cintas last night. These guys just know how to play and they have a coach who knows how to coach.

Since entering the Big East, X is 2-16 v. ‘Nova. There’s no shame in losing to the Wildcats. But if the Musketeers are into goal-fulfillment, they need to beat them, at least occasionally.

One more shot, potentially, this year. At the Garden in March.

RIDICULOUS SEC DOMINANCE, from Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel:

In the (Recruiting) Class of 2022, 37 of the top 101 players per Rivals.com are headed to just three schools – Alabama, Georgia and A&M. (And that number may go up.) Georgia signed 10 of the top 48 recruits in the country, and yet A&M’s class is ranked higher.

The SEC is 12-3 in playoff games facing non-SEC competition, including six consecutive wins by an average of 23.5 points.

AND NOW. . .

Hey Michelle! is partying downtown.

It’s perfect weather to hit up Fountain Square to skate or try out the bumper cars on ice. They have the Square Bar open for cans of courage for your triple axel and a warming tent. To make things easier you can reserve your ice time online. The Square is also hosting a tailgate party for the Bengals game, with live music on Saturday and the game on the big screen.

Art on Vine ~ Sunday 12-7 Come shop at Rhinegeist and support local artists while you sip great beers and get some eats at OTR Chili. This event is free and family friendly.

Findlay Market Chili Fest ~ Sunday 10am-4pm. You can taste chili of all types and other bites prepared by Findlay merchants. There will be live music and beer from Cartridge Brewing. Check out the Findlay website for tickets and the lineup of creative chili items that will be available.

Kids Jersey Giveaway ~ The Cyclones hit the ice Sunday at 3 and the first 1,500 kids get a jersey. Have a great weekend and WHO DEY!

Imbiber Dave goes red. Meat and wine.

Ok we finally got some winter weather. This calls for a serious soul warmer, aka some delicious red wine and barreled spirits.

To celebrate surviving the holiday season, my loving bride bought me a bone in, dry aged ribeye from Avril Bleh that was so big it beeped whenever it backed up. This bad boy was presented alongside a Heitz 2016 Cabernet that effectively moved me from misty eyes to full blown tears of joy. After sprinkling a little Precinct Dust on my steak, I took a sip of my Macallan scotch I had been saving for just such an occasion.

If you aren’t planning to break the bank, there are so many awesome wine shops around Cincy in addition to behemoths like the Party Source. Some of my favorites include Ludlow Wines in Clifton, Dutch’s in Hyde Park, and Oakley Wines. What I love about these places is you can simply name a wine that you have enjoyed and they can show you similar bottles that you’ve never tried but will most likely enjoy. Particularly, lots of less well known grapes like Garnacha in place of Grenache. Check out the Garnacha de Fuego if you can snag a bottle!

Cheers!

cincybeerguydave@gmail.com

TUNE O' THE DAY. . . I heard this one at Planet Fitness the other day. If you belong to a PF, you know that unless you love club dance music or you're a junior in high school, the music they play over the PA system is, well, substandard.

Not this one, though. This is pretty good.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Raiders NFL wild card prediction

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