Week 17, the Baltimore Ravens‘ playoff hopes come down to two things: A win against their divisional rival Cincinnati Bengals and the San Diego Chargers losing to the Kansas City Chiefs. While the Chiefs may indeed wind up resting their starters, the Bengals most certainly will not in this one — talk about a double-bogey.
As far as their own game goes, Baltimore knows that this is a do-or-die situation. The Bengals may have the division wrapped up, but they want more — they want the number two seed and a bye week in the first round of the playoffs. The Ravens’ chances could not get any worse.
“Obviously we have everything at stake,” head coach John Harbaugh said, according to the Ravens’ team website. “Cincinnati has a lot at stake too – not everything. They’ve got the division and they’re in the playoffs, but they’ve got some seeding issues that they’re playing for.”
“It’s going to be a highly-contested game. It’s going to be a tough fight.”
He’s got that right. Against a 6th-ranked pass defense and a 6th-ranked rush defense, the Ravens don’t’ stand much of a chance of winning this one without the Bengals’ starters sitting on the sidelines. While Cincinnati’s defense has been outstanding this year, the Bengals are coming off of a game in which they put up 42 points as a team — these guys are not fun to mess with.
With the way the Ravens have struggled — and that’s putting it nicely — to run the ball this season, the Bengals can just about focus most of their attention on quarterback Joe Flacco. This season hasn’t been Flacco’s best, especially because of the lack of weapons in comparison to recent years. But, he is still capable of crunch-time heroics.
Even with that capability, though, I don’t see Flacco and the Ravens doing enough to outlast the Bengals in this one. It was a nice feel-good story at times for Baltimore; you know, the reigning Super Bowl champions somehow battling back into the playoff race. But, in the end, it’ll be all Cincinnati in this one.