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The Raiders X-Factor against the Bengals in the 2022 NFL playoffs, and it’s not Derek Carr

Raiders, Raiders X-Factor, Bengals, Raiders Bengals, NFL Playoffs

After the recent big-time performance of Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in a playoff-berth-clinching win over the Los Angeles Chargers, many would expect that the Raiders X-Factor for their NFL Playoff matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals would be Carr. While Derek Carr will undoubtedly be important to the Raiders in this game, he is far from being the X-Factor that the Raiders need to beat the Bengals.

So, who will it be? Josh Jacobs is coming off of a huge performance against the Chargers but could find the sledding much tougher against the Bengals’ run defense, making him a shaky Raiders X-Factor. What about Hunter Renfrow? The shifty wideout has impressed many with his first 1,000-yard season and is a huge part of Las Vegas’ strong passing attack. However, there’s someone more important to the Raiders than Renfrow. The X-Factor is someone who the opposing team might not expect to be the game MVP but who wouldn’t surprise his own team in the slightest.

For more insight on the Raiders’ Wild Card playoff matchup against the Bengals, listen below:

With that said, here is our Raiders X-Factor.

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Raiders X-Factor vs. Bengals in 2022 NFL Playoffs

The X-Factor isn’t Derek Carr, or Josh Jacobs or Hunter Renfrow because the Raiders have one key playmaker who is still waiting to be unleashed: tight end Darren Waller. Waller has emerged as Carr’s favorite target over the last couple of seasons, though the talented tight end saw his 2021 season cut short by a knee injury sustained during his team’s Thanksgiving win over the Dallas Cowboys. However, there’s no denying the talent that Waller is- and the Raiders clearly know that, as they peppered him with nine targets in his return from the knee injury in their season finale against the Chargers. Waller was in for 78 percent of the offensive snaps, proving that he’s healthy and ready for a bigger workload.

Click here for the odds for the Raiders Wild Card game against the Bengals, courtesy of FanDuel.

A bigger workload is exactly what Waller should see against the Bengals, who have had huge troubles defending the tight end position this season. In fact, Cincinnati yielded seven catches and 116 yards to Waller in their matchup earlier this season and have also surrendered monster games to players such as San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews. Waller is firmly in that upper echelon of elite tight end talents and will need to be a focal point of the Raiders’ gameplan if they want to beat the Bengals. Cincinnati possesses one of the better run defenses in the league but ranks just 26th against the pass.

The Raiders need to attack the Bengals’ biggest weakness and the best way to do that is to get tight end Darren Waller going early and often. Waller has a great chance of having a big game if the Raiders can exploit the Bengals’ tight end woes.

That’s why tight end Darren Waller is the Raiders’ X-Factor in their NFL playoff game against the Bengals.

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