Ravens face improving Bengals with playoff spot at stake
The Baltimore Ravens will look to punch their ticket for a third straight trip to the playoffs with a win Sunday over host Cincinnati, which has won two straight games.
The Ravens (10-5) clinch a spot in the AFC playoffs by beating the Bengals (4-10-1), or if the Cleveland Browns (10-5) lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3), or via a loss by the Indianapolis Colts (10-5) to the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14).
The Ravens could also get in with a tie, if the Dolphins (10-5) lose to the Buffalo Bills (11-3) or if the Tennessee Titans (10-5) lose to the Houston Texans (4-11). If the Ravens and the Colts or Browns also tie, the Ravens would advance.
“You try not to look too far elsewhere, but we control our own fate, and that’s a great feeling,” Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said. “We’re just trying to get better and win this game, and the cards will fall how they fall.”
The Bengals are seeking to end the season on a three-game winning streak by defeating the Ravens for the first time in five meetings dating back to a 34-23 win in Cincinnati on Sept. 13, 2018.
The Ravens, who are coming off a victory over the New York Giants on Sunday, have won four straight games to control their postseason destiny.
“Obviously, we still have another one that we have to win,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “So, we’re still in the process of trying to finish this thing out the right way and get into the playoffs.”
Lamar Jackson has fueled the Ravens’ surge, throwing for 2,644 yards with 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has also rushed for a team-high 908 yards and seven touchdowns, leading a rushing attack that also features Gus Edwards (663 yards, six TDs) and rookie J.K. Dobbins (645 yards, seven TDs).
The Ravens are the only team in the NFL history — based on data since 1932 — with three players who have rushed for at least 600 yards and six touchdowns in a season.
The Bengals have played their two best games of the season in consecutive weeks, following a 27-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15 with a 37-31 win at Houston on Sunday.
Quarterback Brandon Allen threw for a career-high 371 yards, two touchdowns and a 126.5 passer rating against the Texans.
Tee Higgins, who is questionable for Sunday’s game (hamstring), had six catches for 99 yards and a score and Samaje Perine added 13 carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns as Cincinnati posted 540 yards of total offense. Perine will start against the Ravens after head coach Zac Taylor said Joe Mixon, the team’s leading rusher with 428 yards, remains sidelined with a foot injury suffered in Week 6.
Allen was forced into action after Joe Burrow, the top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, tore his left ACL and MCL and also suffered partial tears to his PCL and meniscus during a 20-9 loss to Washington on Nov. 22.
“Winning two games in a row is really insignificant in this NFL, but it is significant for us right now, just everybody seeing what we’ve been through,” Taylor told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It means a lot to these guys and something to build off of.”
The Ravens had nine players sit out practice Wednesday including receiver Willie Snead (ankle), defensive backs Jimmy Smith (ribs, shoulder), Marcus Peters (calf) and Marlon Humphrey (shoulder), running back Mark Ingram (illness) and defensive end Calais Campbell (calf). Punter Sam Koch was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and his availability for Sunday’s game is unclear.
Cincinnati linebackers Logan Wilson (ankle) and Jordan Evans (hamstring), receiver Tyler Boyd (concussion) and center B.J. Finney (abdomen) all missed practice Wednesday after not playing against the Texans last week.
–Field Level Media