Game Preview: Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Alex Erickson runs the ball in the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Alex Erickson runs the ball in the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In the Bengals’ home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Andrew Catalon (play-by-play) and James Lofton (analyst).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

Setting the scene: The Cincinnati Bengals this week host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. Standing at 5-8 with three games left, the Bengals have a challenging trek ahead of them in a bid to avoid a losing season. Lugging the weight of a five-game losing streak and looking to stabilize the imbalance caused by a series of significant injuries to key players, Cincinnati hopes to find its footing against Oakland this week in their climb to close the 2018 season on higher ground.

Last week, despite being two-touchdown underdogs on the road against a team with the second-best record in the AFC, the Bengals turned in what was considered by many to be an encouraging performance against the L.A. Chargers at StubHub Center. The end result was a 26-21 loss to the Chargers, but the Bengals, who faced deficits of 14-3 early and 23-15 late, fought back for a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion just after the two-minute warning. HB Joe Mixon scored on a one-yard TD run with 1:50 left to pull the Bengals within two points, 23-21, but QB Jeff Driskel was sacked on the two-point attempt. The Chargers recovered the ensuing onside kick, then added a field goal with just under a minute left for the game’s final score.

“We need to win,” said head coach Marvin Lewis, when asked whether the team’s performance against the Chargers could be taken as a sign of improvement. “That’s the only progress that really counts. We (the coaches) have got to keep putting them into position to win, and obviously, they (the players) have got to make the plays to win the game. We’ve got guys playing big-time football, and we’ve got to make sure we all are doing it, all the time.”

Mixon finished the game with 111 yards rushing on 26 carries (4.3-yard average) and another 27 yards receiving on five catches. It was his fifth game of the season with 115 or more yards from scrimmage. In his second start of the season, Driskel completed 18 of 27 passes for 170 yards, one TD and no INTs (96.2 passer rating). The Bengals’ defense allowed just 288 net yards — its fewest of the season — to a Chargers offense which entered the game ranked fifth in the NFL in average net yards (399.4). Lewis, who never is quick to point out positives after a loss, duly noted that none of that mattered.

“What you did last week doesn’t gain you anything,” Lewis said. “We have to go back and do it better — find a new way, find a better way. We have to find a way to make more plays and keep (opponents) from scoring points, and for us to score a little more. We have to figure it out.”

In preparing for the Raiders, the Bengals will continue to attempt to overcome a long list of injuries. Cincinnati began this week with 14 players on the Reserve/Injured list. That included five players who were starters at the beginning of the season — QB Andy Dalton, WR A.J. Green, TE Tyler Eifert, TE Tyler Kroft and LB Preston Brown — as well as other players whose roles included significant playing time, such as DE Carl Lawson and DT Ryan Glasgow. In addition, a long list of regular starters currently on the 53-player roster have missed multiple games this season due to injuries, including Mixon, HB Giovani Bernard, OT Cordy Glenn, C Billy Price, LB Vontaze Burfict, LB Nick Vigil and CB Darqueze Dennard.

Among the storylines for Cincinnati this week will be the homecoming of a large contingent of former Bengals who are now with the Raiders. Oakland defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was an assistant on Lewis’ staff from 2005-17, including four seasons as defensive coordinator from ’14-17, and Raiders LB coach David Lippincott was a Bengals assistant from ’11-17. In addition, 10 current Raiders players are former Bengals. In a scheduling/statistical oddity, the Raiders are the third consecutive opponent to face the Bengals one week after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati’s AFC North Division rival. The Denver Broncos defeated the Steelers 24-17 in Week 12 before facing the Bengals in Week 13, the L.A. Chargers defeated the Steelers 33-30 in Week 13 before facing the Bengals in Week 14, and the Raiders defeated the Steelers 24-21 last week.

The series: The Raiders lead, 20-10, including 2-0 in postseason, but the Bengals have won two straight and three of the last four meetings. The Bengals lead 8-6 as the home team. The Bengals’ win in the most recent meeting in 2015 was the team’s first in 11 visits to Oakland dating back to 1968 (the Raiders were based in Los Angeles from 1982-94). In all games, home and road, the Bengals are 6-14 against the Oakland Raiders and were 4-6 against the L.A. Raiders. The series includes two playoff games. The Raiders won 31-28 in a divisional game at Oakland in 1975, and won 20-10 in a divisional game at Los Angeles in ’90.

10 former Bengals now in Oakland: The following Raiders players have previously spent time with the Bengals:

  • CB Leon Hall (Reserve/Injured), a first-round draft pick of the Bengals in 2007, was with the team from ’07-15.
  • DT Frostee Rucker, a third-round draft pick of the Bengals in 2006, was with the team from ’06-11.
  • K Mike Nugent (Reserve/Injured) was with Cincinnati from 2010-16. Nugent is also a native of Centerville, Ohio (Centerville High School), and played at Ohio State University.
  • S Reggie Nelson (Reserve/Injured) was with Cincinnati from 2010-15.
  • QB AJ McCarron, a fifth-round draft pick of the Bengals in 2014, was with the team from ’14-17.
  • LB Emmanuel Lamur, a college free agent signee of the Bengals in 2012, was with the team from ’12-15.
  • DT Clinton McDonald, a seventh-round draft pick of the Bengals in 2009, was with the team from ’09 through the ’11 preseason.
  • WR Brandon LaFell (Reserve/Injured) was with Cincinnati from 2016 through the ’18 preseason.
  • CB Bene Benwikere was with Cincinnati during the 2017 preseason.
  • OT Justin Murray was with Cincinnati late in 2017 through the ’18 preseason. Murray is also a Cincinnati native (Sycamore High School) and played at the University of Cincinnati.

More Bengals-Raiders connections: Raiders head coach Jon Gruden played QB at the University of Dayton ... Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was on the Bengals’ coaching staff from 2005-17. He was defensive coordinator from 2014-17. ... Raiders linebackers coach David Lippincott was on the Bengals’ coaching staff from 2011-17. Lippincott is also a Cincinnati native and attended the University of Dayton. ... Raiders CB Gareon Conley and DT Johnathan Hankins both played at Ohio State University ... Bengals CB Tony McRae entered the NFL as a college free agent signee of the Raiders in 2016 ... Raiders WR/DB Johnny Holton (practice squad) played at the University of Cincinnati ... Bengals QB Connor Cook (practice squad) entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick of the Raiders in 2016 ... Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack was on the Raiders’ staff in 2012 ... Raiders tight ends coach Frank Smith played (1999-2003) and coached (’04-05) at Miami (Ohio) University ... Raiders assistant defensive line coach Marco Coleman is from Dayton, Ohio ... Raiders defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley coached at the University of Kentucky from 2013-15.

Bengals’ O excels in red zone: The Bengals’ offense this season has scored TDs on 27 of its 36 trips to the red zone, good for a 75.0 percentage that ranks second in the NFL. Of Cincinnati’s 27 red-zone TDs, 17 have come by pass and 10 have come via the running game. Four of the passes have gone to WR John Ross, four have gone to WR Tyler Boyd, four have gone to WR A.J. Green, and two have gone to TE C.J. Uzomah. TE Tyler Eifert, TE Matt Lengel and HB Joe Mixon each have one TD reception apiece. Mixon also has six of Cincinnati’s 10 rushing TDs in the red zone, while HB Giovani Bernard has three and QB Jeff Driskel has one.

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