The Bengals are officially the 2013 AFC North division champions, snapping the Ravens’ two-year run on top of the division.
But Cincinnati still has a lot to play for, and will give the Ravens their best shot on Sunday. The Bengals have a chance at getting a first-round bye.
“No champagne yet,” Bengals cornerback Adam Jones said after the win. “We want to be the one or two seed.”
Cincinnati is 10-5. New England is 11-4. If the Bengals win and the Patriots lose, the two will be tied, but the Bengals hold the head-to-head advantage because of a 13-6 win over the Patriots in Week 5.
The Ravens are preparing for the Bengals to be at full strength.
“Obviously we have everything at stake,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “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.”
Any hopes of facing the Bengals’ backups were eliminated when CBS flexed the Patriots-Bills game to 4:25 p.m. on Sunday.
Had the Bengals and the Patriots kicked off at the same time, Cincinnati could have opted to put its backups in later in the game if New England built a huge lead. Now that the Patriots come on later, the Bengals will be full-go.
After the Ravens game ends, they may have their eyes on the Chiefs-Chargers game kicking off at 4:25 p.m. With a win, Baltimore needs either San Diego or Miami to lose in order to get into the playoffs.
The Chiefs, however, will likely not play their starters, which is bad news for the Ravens. Baltimore may need Kansas City to win.
The Chiefs are locked into the AFC’s fifth seed. Head Coach Andy Reid had a history of resting his starters when he was with Philadelphia. The only reason he possibly wouldn’t is because his team is coming off an ugly 23-7 loss to the Colts.
“I’m going to take the time I have to evaluate it and make sure that I do what I think is right,” Reid said Monday. “This is one of those decisions that you make and there’s a little bit of a gut feeling that you go with. I’ll go off of that.”