Ravens vs. Bengals NFL Week 17 Preview

By James Taylor III
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

There won’t be much on the line Sunday, but it will be a final tune-up for both the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday as both teams will play in the opening week of the playoffs.

The Bengals are locked into the six-seed, as they cannot leapfrog the Indianapolis Colts for the five-seed.

The Ravens meanwhile can be no worse than their current four-seed. The only way the Ravens can move up is if the Miami Dolphins beat the New England Patriots. If that does happen and the Ravens can defeat the Bengals, the Ravens will get the three-seed.

If that scenario does in fact happen, then the Ravens would host the Bengals next week in the opening round of the playoffs.

However, there are many moving parts for that scenario to happen, so back to this match-up.

These two teams met all the way back in Week 1, as the Ravens pounded the Bengals 44-13 on the opening Monday Night Football game of the season.

However, since that game the Ravens have lost a number of key players.

Ray Lewis has been cleared to play, but the Ravens will wait to suit-up their leader for the playoffs. Terrell Suggs has played admirably through a torn biceps, but his impact has been limited. Leading receiver Anquan Boldin is questionable with a shoulder injury, while Haloti Ngata is also questionable with his nagging knee injury.

The banged up Ravens ended a three-game losing streak last week, as they downed the New York Giants in a battle of teams with fading Super Bowl aspirations. The win by the Ravens assured that they would be AFC North champs despite the outcome of the game versus the Bengals.

Meanwhile, the Bengals have recovered masterfully after a mid-season swoon appeared to dash their playoff hopes.

However the Bengals have reeled off six wins in the last seven games to clinch a wildcard berth. The only loss in that time was a one-point loss to the Dallas Cowboys after the Bengals blew a nine-point fourth quarter lead, so they were that close to a robust seven game winning streak.

Offensively, there are many similarities between the two divisional foes.

Ray Rice is 11th in rushing yards, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis ranks 12th. Neither Joe Flacco nor Andy Dalton are in the top 10 for passing yards or passer rating.

The only difference is at the wide receiver position where A.J. Green has been an absolute beast, while the Ravens have relied on more of a pass catching committee.

Green is fifth in the NFL in yards, as he has become one of the league’s top young receivers. For the Ravens, Boldin is just 79 yards shy of his sixth 1,000-yard receiving season and first as a Raven. Torrey Smith is 145 yards from his first 1,000-yard season in his career, so some personal achievements are in sight for those two.

The biggest difference between these two teams is on the defensive side.

The Bengals own the sixth-ranked defense and are second in the league in sacks. The Ravens meanwhile have improved upon their defense in recent weeks, but still rank a subpar 20th in the league. They rank 15th in the league in sacks and have been less opportunistic than usual.

The Ravens do own a four-game winning streak against the Bengals, but this match-up has little riding on it.

With both teams essentially playing for nothing, look for the Ravens to rest up their walking wounded. The Ravens would of course like to go into the playoffs on a winning note, but being as healthy as possible is way more important.

With a more banged up squad and playing on the road, expect the Ravens to tread lightly in this game. This game means nothing to them assuming the Patriots win. With a home game against Andrew Luck and the Colts all but set next week, the Ravens don’t need to prove anything in this game.

Thus, look for the Bengals to pull out this game 24-17 as both teams hope to stay healthy playing in this trivial game.

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