Bengals, Raiders stare down must-wins in contest

Field Level Media

November 18, 2021 at 7:06 am.

The Cincinnati Bengals and host Las Vegas Raiders will each try to end a two-game losing streak that has dampened a promising start when they meet on Sunday.

The Bengals (5-4) and Raiders (5-4) were each atop their respective divisions a few weeks ago but are now seeking a much-needed victory to prevent them from falling further out of playoff contention.

The Bengals took over first place in the AFC North Division with a dominating, 41-17 win at Baltimore on Oct. 24, when they put up 520 yards of total offense. But they followed their best performance of the season with two of their two worst outings, falling 34-31 to the last-place Jets before getting blown out at home, 41-16 to the last-place Browns on Nov. 7.

Cincinnati had its bye last week.

“You’re going to see a good football team after this bye,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “We’ve got a lot of season left in front of us. We’re going to learn from this, move on, and be a team to be reckoned with here in November and December.”

The Raiders also opened up 5-2 and appeared to be a threat to dethrone the Chiefs in the AFC West. But a 23-16 loss to the Giants followed by a 41-14 setback to the visiting Chiefs on Sunday have dropped the Raiders to third place in the division.

The Raiders’ Derek Carr and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow are each enjoying good seasons.

Carr is fourth with 2,826 yards and tied for 12th with 15 passing touchdowns. He’s 278 yards shy of eclipsing 30,000 career passing yards.

Burrow is seventh with 2,497 yards and tied for fourth with 20 touchdown passes, but he’s also tied for the league lead with 11 interceptions, three more than Carr.

Cincinnati rookie Ja’Marr Chase has flourished playing with Burrow, his former college teammate at LSU. Chase has 44 receptions for 835 yards, averaging an impressive 19 yards per catch.

Las Vegas tight end Darren Waller (44 receptions, 494 yards, 2 TDs) and receiver Hunter Renfrow (52 receptions, 494 yards, 4 TDs) have been consistent this season.

Bryan Edwards (21 receptions, 434 yards, 2 TDs) has taken the spot vacated by Henry Ruggs III. The team released Ruggs after he was charged with four felonies and a misdemeanor for his role in a crash that killed a woman and her dog earlier this month.

Both teams are ranked in the bottom 10 in rushing, with the Bengals having rushed for 874 yards — led by Joe Mixon’s 636 yards and seven touchdowns — while the Raiders have mustered just 765 yards, led by Josh Jacobs’ 296 yards and two scores on 80 carries. However, Jacobs was limited in practice on Wednesday due to an ailing knee.

Neither team has excelled defensively this season, with the Bengals 18th in total defense (361.2 ypg) and 11th in points allowed (22.6 ppg). The Raiders rank 16th in total defense (360.1 ypg) and 26th in points allowed (25.6 pg).

“I don’t think effort has been an issue,” Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia said. “We have to do a better job of cleaning up certainly the penalties we’ve gone through now over the last few weeks and then our execution, being able to execute the play that’s called both on offense and on defense. And then we want to keep getting better at tackling.”

The Bengals should enter Sunday’s game pretty healthy. Defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin (knee) didn’t practice on Wednesday, while center Trey Hopkins (knee) and receiver Auden Tate (thigh) were limited.

Las Vegas, which lost fullback Alec Ingold to a torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered against the Chiefs, had four players who didn’t practice on Wednesday — linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (ankle), cornerback Amik Robertson (hip), running back Jalen Richard (ribs) and cornerback Keisean Nixon (ankle/foot).