Raiders, Steelers face tall tasks during Super Wild Card Weekend
The National Football League’s Super Wild Card Weekend is upon us. After the longest regular season in NFL history, 14 teams are left with a chance to win the game’s ultimate prize: The Vince Lombardi Trophy.
For a number of these teams, the pursuit of a playoff spot came down to the final weekend of the season (and, for a few, the legitimate final game of the campaign). Thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders edging past the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively, those squads are in the postseason, but both face daunting tasks now that they’ve reached the promised land.
Underdog Raiders face a tall task against the Bengals
We’ll start with the Raiders, who played Sunday’s most-discussed contest. A tie would have put both the Raiders and Chargers in the playoffs, but thanks to a Daniel Carlson field goal in overtime, Las Vegas heads to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals Saturday while Los Angeles heads to the golf course.
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As of this writing, the Bengals are 5.5-point favorites, and for good reason. While the Joe Burrow-led offense found its best stride late in the season, the Cincinnati rush defense quietly ranked fifth in the NFL, yielding just 1,742 yards on the ground. If the Raiders struggle to get the ground game going early, it’ll be up to Derek Carr to keep up with Burrow, which seems like a tall order. The Raiders have made for a fun team to watch given the adversity they’ve overcome (the less said about Jon Gruden and Henry Ruggs, the better), but if that spread stays the same, I’d find it tough to bet on them to cover.
Chiefs are poised to blowout Steelers on Sunday
Moving on, the Steelers needed wins in their last two games to make the playoffs in what might be quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s final season. They did win, and they also dodged the Sunday Night Football tie that would’ve sent them home despite that recent hot streak.
Unfortunately, one thing Pittsburgh can’t dodge is Kansas City. The two-time defending AFC champions will host the Steel Curtain Sunday night, and oddsmakers are anticipating a blowout. The Chiefs are 12.5-point favorites, and if anything, that seems generous to Pittsburgh given KC’s 36-10 throttling of the Steelers just last month.
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The Chiefs aren’t bulletproof, as the Bengals showed two weeks ago. However, they’re a terrible matchup for Pittsburgh, and while Roethlisberger’s last ride makes for a convenient storyline, he’s thrown for more than 300 yards just once in his last 13 games. I don’t think the Steelers have anywhere close to the firepower necessary to run with the Chiefs, and I think Kansas City wins big.