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Key Players for the Baltimore Ravens Against the Cincinnati Bengals

December 28th, 2013 at 7:15 AM
By Josh Michael

The Baltimore Ravens are among four teams with hopes of securing the final AFC Wildcard spot heading into the regular season finales on Sunday, and today we highlight which players will be the most crucial for the Ravens as they square off against their AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals.

There are always several key players for any team in any game, but we dive through them all to give you the four most critical for the Ravens as they attempt to make it to their sixth consecutive postseason on Sunday.

'Joe Flacco' photo (c) 2013, Jeffrey Beall - license:

Joe Flacco

After watching last week's performance against the New England Patriots, it became ever so clear once again that this Ravens offense is going to go as Flacco goes, and when he is off, it is going to look pretty ugly for Baltimore's point total. Flacco was playing in a game with a knee brace on for the first time since his college days and it was obvious that he was not comfortable in it and was probably less than 100% healthy. He had no zip on the ball and under-threw several passes. Flacco is going to have to play a much better game on Sunday if Baltimore has any chance of winning as they are going up against a pretty darn good Bengals defense that gets after the quarterback. In addition, the Ravens are going to have to score some points as the Bengals have a top ten offense as well.

Ray Rice

Look, it is no secret in the NFL, that the quarterback and the passing game highly benefits from a successful running game and the Ravens have not had one essentially all season. Rice, as well as Bernard Pierce have to get things going on the ground in this game in order to help Flacco with the pass rush as well as open up the play action game. It is not going to be easy as the Bengals boast a pretty stout rushing defense, but it is almost an absolute must for Baltimore's offense to be successful this game.

Jimmy Smith

Smith has hushed a lot of his critics with his play this season as he has been one of, if not the best defensive player on the field for Baltimore and this Sunday he is going to have to be. Baltimore does not like to move their corners from side to side just to line up against a certain player, but we look for the Ravens to do this on Sunday because the Bengals have the second best wide receiver in the game in A.J. Green. Smith held his own against Calvin Johnson two weeks ago, and now he gets Green. The Ravens will need Smith to have yet another good game this week if they hope to keep Green contained.

Haloti Ngata

Ngata has had an up and down season. At times he has looked like the dominant player he has shown in past years and he has struggled at other times. Haloti is going to have to play well against the Bengals if Baltimore wants to come out on top because Ngata has the ability to greatly disrupt both the running game and passing game up the middle of the line. When Ngata is getting pressure on quarterbacks up the middle, they then begin to look to move outside of the pocket, which normally leads them right into the waiting arms of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. If you look at some of the best games Suggs and or Dumervil have had this season, you will notice that Ngata was very disruptive up the middle and the odds of that being a coincidence seem unlikely.

These are our key players for the Ravens as the prepare to take on the Bengals in a must win, but who are yours? Let your voice be heard by posting a comment!

Although Baltimore was hoping this game would be for the AFC North division title, they can still clinch a wildcard spot with a win and a loss by either the Miami Dolphins or the San Diego Chargers.


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Tags: AFC Wildcard, Baltimore, Baltimore Ravens, Elvis Dumervil, Football, Haloti Ngata, Jimmy Smith, Joe Flacco, NFL, Ray Rice

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