After 18 grueling weeks of action, the playoffs are kicking off with some exciting games on tap.
In this edition of the Showstopper, we’re previewing Raiders vs. Bengals in the AFC, as well as Eagles vs. Buccaneers and 49ers vs. Cowboys in the NFC.
Uncover the biggest news and stats to know before placing your postseason bets.
Las Vegas Raiders vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Saturday, January 15 | TV: NBC
Two surprising playoff teams collide in what should be a pass-heavy showdown. Both the Raiders and Bengals rank in the top 10 in game script-adjusted pass rates. The Bengals are 5-4 at home, including a couple of recent shootout victories against the Ravens (41-21) and Chiefs (34-31). Cincinnati hasn’t had any trouble finding its offensive flow at Paul Brown Stadium, and if the Raiders want to stay in this game, they’ll likely need to attack through the air to match the firepower of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and his trio of talented receivers: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. During the regular season, the Bengals gave up 22.1 points per game, while the Raiders surrendered 25.8 points per game.
Thankfully, Raiders QB Derek Carr has tight end Darren Waller back in the fold and trusty target Hunter Renfrow to rely on, but it’s been wideout Zay Jones who has increasingly drawn more of Carr’s attention. Carr will have his hands full with the Bengals’ pass rush, which will be at full strength after defensive end Trey Hendrickson and defensive tackle B.J. Hill were activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Bengals running back Joe Mixon, who was also activated, will make his postseason debut against a Raiders D allowing 27.6 rushing attempts per game.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, January 16 | TV: FOX
With Antonio Brown’s theatrics in the rearview mirror, the Buccaneers’ offense didn’t miss a beat in their 41-17 season-closing win over the Panthers, as Tom Brady threw for 326 yards and three TDs – two of which were caught by Mike Evans. Aside from an abysmal 9-0 defeat to the Saints, the Bucs have posted an otherwise flawless record on their home turf. With Chris Godwin rehabbing a torn ACL, it’ll be up to Evans and tight end Rob Gronkowski to take advantage of an Eagles defense that’s been more vulnerable through the air than on the ground. That said, the Eagles D has been much improved down the stretch, bolstered by playmaking cornerback Darius Slay, so it wouldn’t be a shock if they found a way to keep it closer than anticipated.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has been a full participant at practice and his injured ankle should be well-rested now. Philly also activated tight end Dallas Goedert and running back Jordan Howard from the reserve/COVID-19 list. The Bucs are the pass-heaviest team in the league, but the Eagles have relied mostly on their run game to move the chains. Philly will probably test the Bucs’ run defense and try to repeat the Saints’ game plan, which included 31 carries in spite of a low yards per attempt. Howard and Miles Sanders, returning from a broken hand, are both gearing up for Sunday. In the passing game, Hurts should look Goedert’s way often as a safety valve; he was targeted 26 times in his final four games of the season.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, January 16 | TV: CBS
The Cowboys finished the regular season first in the league in points per game (31.2) and second in passing yards per game (282.4). Over the last few weeks, they racked up over 50 points on Washington and Philly, but struggled to overcome Arizona, mostly attributed to their lackluster rushing attack. The 49ers defense poses a tough challenge due to their pass rush, which sacked QBs Matthew Stafford and Joe Burrow five times each in recent overtime victories. If the 49ers can keep the heat on Dak Prescott, this game gets a lot more interesting. Either way, San Francisco does have the weaponry on offense to keep up with Dallas.
Jimmy Garoppolo shook off any concerns about his injured thumb in Week 18, throwing for 316 yards and one touchdown in a win over the Rams. However, he also tossed two interceptions in that game, and any turnovers could prove more costly in this matchup. Cowboys star linebacker Micah Parsons was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list, and he’ll definitely be looking to force Jimmy G into mistakes. San Francisco’s edge all season has been its running game, led by rookie Elijah Mitchell (4.7 yards per carry) and versatile wideout Deebo Samuel (eight rushing TDs to go along with six receiving TDs). Despite many expecting a shootout, the 49ers might choose to play ball control and keep it away from Prescott as much as possible.