It all comes down to the final week of the season for the Baltimore Ravens as they prepare to take on the now AFC North Champion Cincinnati Bengals in the regular season finale. Baltimore will need a win and a little help in order to secure a playoff spot, while the Bengals could still garner the number two seed in the AFC with a win and some help.
Both teams have something to play for this go around as last year the Ravens used their week 17 finale against the Bengals as an essential bye week before heading into the playoffs, where they eventually walked away with the Lombardi Trophy. Not this time though as Baltimore needs a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, while the Bengals could get garner the second seed with a win and some help and give themselves a bye week in the playoffs.
The first glaring observation of the game is the fact that Cincinnati has not lost a home game all season and the Ravens have struggled on the road this season, so both teams will have to perform a little out of the ordinary on Sunday in order for the game to come out in Baltimore's favor.
Baltimore's 29th ranked offense will be going up against a darn good defense as the Bengals rank 5th in total defense, allowing an average of just 311.1 total yards per game, and at home they hold opponents below 300 yards of offense per game. Those does not bode well for a Ravens offense that averages just 313.1 yards of offense per game, but they do gain more yards on the road averaging 329.9 yards per game.
Cincinnati is one of the most all around teams in the league as they compliment their fifth ranked defense with an offense that ranks tenth in the NFL averaging 366.8 yards per game. The Bengals offense will be facing a Ravens defense that ranks ninth in the league, but Baltimore does allow over 35 more yards per game on the road (346.1) than they do at home (319.1). Let's not forget that the Bengals also have the second best wide receiver in all of football in A.J. Green who presents matchup problems against any team he faces.
In their first meeting this season, both defense's racked up five sacks a piece, and both teams average 2.7 sacks per game, which is good for 11th in the league. Baltimore will have their work cut out for them as there are only three teams in the entire league who allow fewer sacks per game than the Bengals do, but the Ravens did it last time out, so that will be an important battle to watch.
On the flip side, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was not nearly as mobile as he normally is last week against the Patriots, and Cincinnati's pass rush knows that and will be pinning their ears back trying to knock down the Super Bowl MVP. Baltimore already allows the fourth most sacks per game in all of football, but with a less mobile Flacco, the Ravens could be in trouble.
Despite what is on paper, this will be a typical AFC North matchup between two teams who can play good defense and hit you in the mouth. Both teams will be playing on the field as well as scoreboard watching, but there is little question that Baltimore needs this game more than Cincinnati. So the question is, will they play like it?
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