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Key Matchups: In order to 'rule the jungle,' the Raiders must overthrow Joe Burrow


The final score of 32-13 the last time these two teams played can be classified as deceiving.

The Silver and Black held two leads through the first half of the game and were only down three points with less than 12 minutes to go in the game. The Bengals, however, would go on to deplete the momentum the Raiders were building with a late touchdown grab by Ja'Marr Chase, turnovers on offense and the run attack led by Joe Mixon. The Raiders, even with that though, believe they can compete with the team that previously defeated them – as they look to advance on to another week of football in the process.

Here are a couple of the bigger key matchups to watch for in the AFC Wild Card game in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Maxx Crosby vs. Joe Burrow

After going 2-14 in the 2019 season, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Heisman Winner Joe Burrow with the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Now in his second season as their franchise quarterback, the Bengals have posted their best record in six seasons and are back in the playoffs.

The success of the team can be pointed back to the decision to draft Burrow, who threw for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns with a 108.3 quarterback rating in 2021. Playing in his first NFL playoff game, he'll be lined up against another relentless competitor making his NFL postseason debut. Maxx Crosby, who is coming off an AFC Defensive Player of the Week award win, has been nonstop action off the line of scrimmage. Crosby led the league in quarterback pressures this season, while tacking on eight sacks and his first Pro Bowl selection.

"Obviously a great player. ... We're going to have to have a plan for him," Burrow said about Crosby this week. "We're going to have to get the ball out quickly and just understand that time might be limited in the pocket because of those guys they have on that side."

While Burrow threw for the sixth-most passing yards in the league, he has been the most sacked quarterback in the league this season (51) and was sacked three times by the Raiders in their Week 11 matchup. In that game, Crosby posted a 61.5 percent pass-rush win rate, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

The Raiders linebackers vs. Joe Mixon

For lack of better terms, Joe Mixon cooked the Raiders defense in their first meeting.

The Bengals running back rushed for 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns with the 30 carries he received in the Week 11 showdown. This was tied for the most carries Mixon has had in a game in his career, and the third most rushing yards he had in a game this season. This has been's Mixon's best season of his career – staying healthy throughout the course to rush for over 1,200 yards and 16 total touchdowns.

"They still have the run game that keeps you on edge," said defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. "We've got a lot of respect for the running backs. [Joe] Mixon is a very, very talented back."

The big difference between Mixon and a few of the Raiders linebackers is playoff experience. This will be Mixon's first playoff game while K.J. Wright and Cory Littleton have played a combined 19 playoff games in their career. Not to mention having the services of Pro Bowl linebacker Denzel Perryman and rookie Divine Deablo, who has carved out a big role for himself in the rotation over the second half of the season.

"I think that they're playing together more. The communication is better. The execution is better," Bradley said of his defense. "I think we're doing a much better job on third down. And that comes back to just our execution. So, it really starts up front for us. I think those guys kind of set the tone and the back end has played accordingly. So, they feel like they're playing as a unit right now with the communication. It's not just understanding the defense, but some of the things that go along with down and distance tendencies and some indicators for us."

The front seven unit for the Raiders has looked better and better as the season progressed, especially during their four-game winning streak. Over that span, they've allowed an average of only 78.5 rushing yards per game.

View director of photography Michael Clemens' top picks of black and white photos from the Raiders' Week 18 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium.

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