The Washington Post
TODAY’S FI RST- ROUND NFL PLAYOFF GAMES
4:30 p.m. Las Vegas at Cincinnati » NBC
What are these guys doing here? The Bengals own a dismal, dysfunctional history. The Raiders endured scandal and tragedy that rocked their franchise. They both won 10 games with quarterbacks who will make their playoff debut. Joe Burrow recovered from torn ligaments in his knee suffered last season and arrived as an elite quarterback in his second season. College teammate Ja’marr Chase helped him with one of the great rookie receiving seasons in NFL history.
In his eighth season, Derek Carr navigated the resignation of coach Jon Gruden and the loss of wide receiver Henry Ruggs III after he was charged with driving under the influence and causing a horrific, deadly crash. The Raiders were 6-7 after a 48-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs but then reeled off four straight wins. The Raiders’ vicious defensive front, led by relentless pass rusher Maxx Crosby, will challenge Burrow’s preference to play out of empty formations.
NIGHT SHIFT New England at Buffalo »
The third matchup between old and new AFC East standard-bearers will take place on a Saturday night with snow in the forecast. Their first meeting was one of the most memorable games of the season, with the Patriots winning in a windstorm in Orchard Park, N.Y., while throwing just three passes. The Bills avenged that loss behind a bravura performance from Josh Allen a month later in Foxborough, Mass.
The Bills repeated as AFC East champions after losing in the AFC championship game last January, but this season included far more difficulty. They dropped to 7-6 after losses to the Patriots and Tampa Bay highlighted their weaknesses at both running the ball and stopping the run. But they regrouped behind Allen and won their final four games. The Patriots are headed the other direction after a 33-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins in their season finale that rookie quarterback Mac Jones called “super embarrassing.” It would be wise not to discount Bill Belichick when he faces an opponent for the third time.