AFC Playoff Picture Before the Late Afternoon Games

By James Taylor III
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

It was a game that meant nothing to both the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals, and they played like it Sunday as both teams cautiously entered the playoffs.

The Ravens sat Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis and Anquan Boldin as they were all but locked into the four-seed entering the game. The only way the Ravens could have slid up to the three seed is if they won and the New England Patriots lost to the Miami Dolphins.

That point is now moot though as the Ravens were defeated by the Bengals 23-17 in Cincinnati.

The Ravens removed Joe Flacco from the game with just over two minutes remaining in the first quarter and Ray Rice only received three carries, as the Ravens further relinquished any chance to seize the game.

The Bengals knew they were locked into the six seed coming into the game and did little to jeopardize their collective health as well, as they rarely put their foot on the gas pedal.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis did not play and A.J. Green only had two catches, while Andy Dalton played only half of the game, so the Bengals clearly waived the white flag early in this game as well.

Elsewhere around the AFC, the Indianapolis Colts dealt the Houston Texans a crippling blow, as they defeated the Texans 28-16 in Indianapolis. For the first time all season the Texans do not control their own destiny and are in between a rock and a hard place as of now.

If the Denver Broncos beat the lowly Kansas City Chiefs and the Patriots beat the Dolphins, the Texans will inconceivably fall to the three-seed. Considering they had the one-seed all but wrapped up two weeks ago, this has to be seen as an utter disaster and a real blow to their confidence heading into the playoffs.

With the Bengals locked into the six-seed, the two possible match-ups are against either the Patriots or Texans. The Bengals did not play either team this year, but they were eliminated by the Texans last season in the first round by a 31-10 score.

If the Patriots win, they get the two-seed and a bye. If the Patriots lose they will slide down to the three-seed and will host the Bengals next weekend.

The Ravens meanwhile will host the upstart Colts in what will be Andrew Luck’s postseason debut. Head Coach Chuck Pagano, who has been battling leukemia for the majority of the season, returned today and coached his team to the big win over the Texans.

The Ravens and Colts did not play this season, so it will be the Ravens’ first time seeing Luck and the “Chuckstrong” Colts. Considering this was a two-win team last season, this season has been beyond a success and they will look to keep their momentum going against a vulnerable Baltimore defense.


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