By Abraham Gutierrez
The Jack Del Rio era will soon get underway for the Oakland Raiders, and there will be no feel-out process to kickoff the 2015 NFL season. First up on the docket for the Silver and Black is a matchup with a playoff team from a year ago, as the Cincinnati Bengals enter the Black Hole looking to plant a seed of doubt into this young Raiders squad. The O.co Coliseum in Oakland will be the site for this intraconference showdown. Opening kickoff is schedule for Sunday afternoon at 1:25 p.m. PT and it will be broadcast live on KPIX 5.
Bengals 2014 NFL Season Record
Cincinnati closed out the 2014 NFL regular season with a 10-5-1 record, which was good enough for second place in the NFC North and a wild card berth into the postseason. However, Marvin Lewis' NFL playoff run would be short lived, as the Bengals would go on to lose to the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 26-10 in the AFC Wild Card Round.
Bengals On Offense
In charge of Cincy's offense is coordinator, Hue Jackson, who's no stranger to the Raiders organization or the state of California. Born in Los Angeles, Jackson enters his 15th campaign in the National Football League and employs his own version of the West Coast Offense. He was the offensive coordinator in Oakland in 2010 before being promoted to head coach the following season.
Jackson was not only beloved by his players and staff, but was also responsible for the franchise's best offensive output since the Jon Gruden/Bill Callahan days. Some of Jackson's accomplishments during his short stint in Oakland include: finishing fourth in the conference and sixth in the league in scoring, fifth in the AFC and 10th in the NFL in total offense, and second in the NFL and AFC in rushing.
Nevertheless, after finishing the season with an 8-8 record – following a surprising 7-4 start – Reggie McKenzie fired Jackson just four days into his new role as Raiders GM. The 49-year-old Pacific product enters his second season as Bengals offensive coordinator and pledges to "open Pandora's box" after finishing ranked 13th in yards per game, 23rd in passing, and seventh in rushing in the NFL a year ago.
Bengals On Defense
Much like in Jackson's case, Paul Guenther also enters his second season as defensive coordinator, but his NFL career extends over a decade. However, unlike Hue, Guenther enjoyed plenty of success in his first season as Bengals DC.
Following the departure of Mike Zimmer to the Minnesota Vikings, the 43-year-old from Richboro, Pennsylvania, led the felines to a No. 12 NFL rank in fewest points allowed, and was an integral part in Cincy's fourth consecutive playoff appearance. Guenther's defense scheme consists of multiple fronts – rather than the typical 4-man front – and he likes to mix things up with some elaborate blitz packages. Last season, the Bengals defense was sixth in the league in total yards per game, ranked fourth against the pass and 15th on the ground.
Bengals Players To Watch
There's no doubt that Cincinnati's offensive success depends solely on (quarterback) Andy Dalton's ability to manage the game and make smart decisions. Statistically, the 2-time Pro Bowler is coming off one his worst seasons as a pro, recording his lowest career-numbers for completions (309), and tying his total-yard production output (3,398) since his rookie campaign. Nevertheless, the chemistry that Dalton and Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green have developed over the years makes them one of the most feared and dangerous duos in all of football.
On the defensive side of the football, Geno Atkins will be the Bengals' player to watch versus Oakland in Week 1. The former fourth-round pick was selected to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his career after recording 34 tackles (20 solo, 14 assists), 3 sacks and a forced fumble.
Bengals vs. Raiders 2015 NFL Week 1 Odds
Given the way these teams match up, it should come as no surprise that the visiting side will be the one to beat. 2015 NFL Week 1 betting odds indicate that the Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5) come in as three-and-a-half-point favorites against the Oakland Raiders (+3.5) in the opener. Also worth noting is the OVER/UNDER, equaling a combined 44 points, as well as the money likes, which go as follows: Oaktown (+155) vs. Cincy (-175).
Abe Gutierrez's passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS Miami (Dolphins), CBS LosAngeles (Chargers) and CBS TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, aExaminer.com. and other online publications.
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