The Baltimore Ravens (10-5) travel to Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati for a week 17 finale with the Bengals (9-6). Both teams already have a playoff berth, but are looking to improve their seeding in the field. After some mid-season rust, the Baltimore Ravens woke up in a big way last week against the declining New York Giants. They’ll look to keep the good vibes going against the Ravens after capturing the AFC North title last week with a win against the Steelers. The Bengals need to keep their eyes on the prize and put that game in the past. That was a massive win, one of the biggest in recent memory for the Bengals, so there were undoubtedly some emotions following that victory. It will be important for them to make short memory of it and focus on the Ravens. The last thing they want is getting a shellacking at the hands of the Ravens in the last week of the season.
The Bengals have gotten into this position quietly. Without many people paying any attention to them, they slithered their way into the AFC North crown by knocking off their division rival. Quarterback Andy Dalton is the catalyst of the offense, and has asserted himself nicely as a pro. He isn’t flashy, his name won’t be talked about at the end of the day, but he gets the job done. Dalton and receiver A.J. Green combine for a dangerous threat. They will need to be on point in the playoffs if they are going to go deep. They will most likely draw the Patriots in the first round which will be no easy task. But if the offense is clicking then they can certainly give the Patriots’ defense fits, especially against their poor pass defense. The Bengals’ offense ranks 20th in the NFL, averaging 342 yards a game and a pretty good 24.5 points a game.
They’ll get an opportunity to take advantage of a Ravens’ defense that is having a down year, which is an understatement. When you hear the Ravens, you think defense, but this season has been the complete opposite, a complete turnaround from seasons past. If you were to watch Ravens’ games this season, you would think that this must be a different team. Well, for the most part, it kind of is. The Ravens have had to endure major injuries this season, including injuries to standout cornerback Lardarius Webb and linebacker, their leader, Ray Lewis. Not to mention Terrell Suggs was sidelined for the majority of the season due to an injury. Lewis is listed as probably, but don’t be fooled, he will most likely be sitting this game out. It is more of a signal sent out by the team that he should be ready to go for the playoffs. One positive thing to note about them, though, is the fact that they are pretty stingy when teams get close to scoring in the red zone. Evident from the 21.4 points allowed, a number that feels like it should be much higher.
The identity of the Ravens has been on offense in 2012. I think they are better known for Ray Rice and Joe Flacco than they are the defense this season. One thing is true, there has been added pressure to Flacco and the offense to perform well considering the injuries on defense. The defense has carried this team for so long and now the offense has to return the favor just for a little while more. The Ravens’ offense is hovering around the middle of the pack in 15th, averaging 352.5 yards per game and 25.4 points a game. They will be tested against an underrated Bengals’ defense that is 6th best in the NFL, allowing only 317.5 yards per game and 20.2 points.
Ravens vs. Bengals Spread and Betting Odds:
Baltimore Ravens +3 (-115)
@ Cincinnati Bengals -3 (-105)
Over 41 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Ravens vs. Bengals Pick:
Games like this are extremely difficult to pick a side on. Both have clinched and coaches are definitely not going to reveal the way their going to handle these games. They often say they are playing to win, but when it comes game time, it appears anything but. With that said, I am going to take a look at the under, particularly the under. There are several signs pointing to this being a low scoring affair. First off, I am not sure either coach is going to want to go all out and get fancy here. Simply play mistake free football, get out of their healthy, and start preparing for the first round.
Trends to the under also point to a low scoring game, most notably, the Bengals play in grind it out kind of games against the AFC. The under is 4-0 in their last four against AFC opponents; under is 6-1 in their last seven home games; and the under is 7-0 after a Bengals’ win. I expect a 17-13, 20-13 type of game with the under as our official play.
PICK = UNDER 41