Cincinnati Bengals (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: September 13th, 4:25 PM EST
Where: O.co Coliseum
TV: Direct TV
by Jeff Hochman, Professional Handicapper, jhsportsline.com
Point Spread: Cinn -3.5/ Oak +3.5
Over/Under Total: 44
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The Cincinnati Bengals fly West trying to get over that playoff hump against the much improved Oakland Raiders. The 2014 season started well with the Bengals winning their first three contests against Baltimore, Atlanta, and Tennessee. However, they got blasted in Week five losing to the Patriots 43-17. They finished the season as the fifth seed, losing to the Colts in the first round of the playoffs. The Bengals will be looking to make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. The Raiders had yet another dismal season in 2014. Jack Del Rio was hired in January to turn this franchise around after producing losing records in eight of the last ten years. Oakland managed to go 8-8 in 2010 and 2011. The Raiders have more talent in 2015 than ever before, so that .500 record looks feasible this season. Next season, the Raiders will most likely be moving to Los Angeles.
The Bengals have one of the ten-best offensive lines in all of football. They allowed the third-least sacks (23) last season. The group has played together for many years and the system hasn’t changed too much under Marvin Lewis. Cincinnati really wants to run the ball a lot behind that massive offensive line. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard form a dynamic one-two punch. Hill led all running backs in yards gained after Week nine last season. Bernard has quietly become one of the best two-way backs over the last two seasons. His 99 receptions are sixth-most since 2013. Andy Dalton completed a career high 64.2% of his passes last season, but had just 19 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Maybe injuries to their receivers played a role. A.J. Green was hurt a lot and used only as a decoy. Make no mistake about it, the Bengals are a run-first team. Oakland’s first team defense was stout against the run this preseason. They will need to show more of that if they want a chance at the upset.
Cincinnati won their “dress rehearsal” game 21-10 as 3.5 point home favorites. The Bengals outgained Chicago by 139 yards while most starters played into the third quarter. Andy Dalton was sharp, but left early as a precaution due to a sore neck. Oakland was very competitive in the preseason, and you can see that this team will be better on both sides of the ball. New head coach Jack Del Rio will infuse his fire and passion into this team. Derek Carr has more weapons than last year and will benefit from playing all 16 games as a rookie last season. The Raiders front seven has the potential to very good. Linebacker Khalil Mack is a stud. He’s on his way to stardom in his sophomore season. I am a little concerned with the Raiders’ secondary. They failed to come up with the big stops last season. The secondary played a little better this preseason. Having Nate Allen at strong Safety is a big plus. I have confidence that Jack Del Rio and new secondary coach Marcus Robinson will improve the passing defense. I know Jack Del Rio likes to blitz on certain passing downs. More so than last year’s regime, (Dennis Allen and Tony Soprano). The Raiders’ defense will be much more aggressive than in year’s past. It’s exactly what they need to win more close games.
The new look Raiders will look to run the ball with Latavius Murray against a Bengal team that struggled against the run last season. The Bengals have a lot of talent in their secondary. Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatric are ball-hawking corners that love to play press coverage. Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper could be in for a long day if the Raiders don’t execute their game plan properly. That game plan involves runs, screens, more runs, and than play-action. The Raiders first team offense and defense played really well in the preseason. They outgained all opponents by a significant margin. Something they haven’t done in what seems like forever. Oakland’s special teams has a nice advantage with Sebastian Janikowski making all sorts of field goals even at 37 years old. He ranked 11th in kickoff touch-back percentage last season. On the flip side, the Bengals were ranked 23rd.
The home team is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings. The Bengals are 5-1 ATS in their last six September games.
Jeff’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Oakland Raiders +3.5
The Bengals have to travel a long way and temps are expected to be above normal. The Bengals have struggled in warmer climates early in the season. I think the Raiders are on the right track. I would expect the Raiders to give the city of Oakland a very competitive team this season. It very well could be their last season in Oakland.