Although both teams are already in the playoffs, the Bengals and Ravens both want to win this game.
The Ravens want to win because they need to prove that last week wasn’t a fluke and that they have rebounded from their horrible late season skid. The Bengals need to win to get some confidence heading into the playoffs. It isn’t that Cincinnati isn’t playing well, but their offense hasn’t exactly been hitting on all cylinders and they will likely be heading to Foxboro to take on the Patriots.
Both teams need to be in playoff form after Sunday but only one team can end its regular season on a good note.
Key Matchup: BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Baltimore’s rush defense. Ellis has been a huge key for the Bengals this year. Not only has he put up great numbers (tallying over 1,000 rushing yards), but he has also taken a lot of pressure off Sophomore QB Andy Dalton. The Ravens have been atrocious at stopping the run this year and I think they are going to have to slow Ellis down if they’re going to win this game.
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Player to Watch: Joe Flacco. In two games since firing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Joe Flacco has had a terrible game and a great game. Not surprisingly, those games coincided with the quality of defense that he was facing; the Ravens need him to be good all the time, not just against weak defenses. The Bengals have the 10th best defense against the pass this year so it will be very interesting to see how well Joe Flacco can move the ball against this secondary.
My Prediction: Ravens 17 Bengals 27. The Ravens are going to struggle in moving the ball against this stout Bengals defense. Ray Rice will get his yards but Joe Flacco is going to have a hard time finding any open receivers.
On the other side of the ball, I expect the Bengals to move the ball with relative ease against the Ravens. Baltimore hasn’t proven they can stop either the rush or the pass this year and I think Ellis and Dalton put together some long drives and pull away in the 4th quarter.