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Gameday Preview: Ravens vs. Bengals Wild-Card Playoffs


Playing in Cincinnati for the second straight week, the Ravens will open the playoffs against the Bengals in a Super Wild-Card Weekend battle between AFC North rivals.

Kickoff is at 8:15 p.m. at Paycor Stadium.

Here's everything you need to know heading into the game.


This is the first playoff matchup between the two teams. Baltimore leads the all-time regular-season series, 28-26, including a 16-11 advantage in Cincinnati. The Ravens and Bengals split two meetings this season, with each team winning at home. In the regular-season finale last weekend, the Ravens rested a number of starters and the Bengals built a 24-7 lead on their way to a 27-16 victory. In Week 5 at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens edged the Bengals, 19-17, as Tucker kicked a 43-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.


The winner will advance to next week's Divisional Playoffs, while the loser's season ends. Baltimore missed the playoffs in 2021, but returned this year even though Lamar Jackson (knee) missed the final five games. Veteran defensive players Calais Campbell and Justin Houston chose to re-sign with Baltimore last summer, partly because they wanted another chance to win a Super Bowl. The Ravens have overcome adversity to reach this point and have bigger goals in mind than just making the playoffs. The Bengals are the defending AFC champs and won the AFC North for the second straight season. They are the AFC's hottest team, entering the playoffs riding an eight-game winning streak. The Bengals have never won a Super Bowl, but believe they are talented enough to change that.

Key Storylines

Who will play quarterback for the Ravens, and will that quarterback play well enough to win?

The Ravens are trying to overcome uncertainty and injuries at the game's most important position. Jackson has missed five straight games, Tyler Huntley is dealing with a throwing shoulder and wrist issue, and Anthony Brown has one career start. No matter who's under center, Baltimore doesn't need a 300-yard passing game to win, especially if the run game is cooking. The Ravens need their quarterback to avoid turnovers and to make several key completions to keep drives alive. The Ravens have been hearing all week that they can't win unless Jackson plays. However, playoff games have been won with backup quarterbacks, and the Ravens believe they can win with any of their quarterbacks.

Will the back-and-forth talk during the week result in chippy play?

There's been plenty of a chatter coming from Cincinnati about how the Ravens played in Week 18. Head Coach John Harbaugh strongly disagreed with any notion that the Ravens played dirty, saying "I studied the game really closely. It's clear our players played a clean game, as they always do." However, the animosity between both sides has been stoked, and the stakes in a playoff game will take emotions to a higher level. The Bengals had the third-fewest penalties in the NFL this season (95), while the Ravens had the fourth fewest (97). Both teams want to play physically, but which team will play with more poise? Avoiding foolish penalties will be important for both teams.

Can the Ravens keep Joe Burrow in check?

The Ravens have made key acquisitions since last year such as Roquan Smith, Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton that have helped them match up with the Bengals' multitude of weapons. Burrow has a career 3-2 record against Baltimore and in two games in 2021, he torched the Ravens for 941 yards passing with seven touchdowns and one interception. However, Burrow's results against the Ravens in two games this season have been far less impressive – 49 of 77 for 432 yards, with just two touchdowns and one interception. If Cincinnati has a big night on offense, it's going to be difficult for Baltimore's offense to keep up. However, if the Ravens pressure Burrow consistently and rise up on third down and in the red zone, they have a legitimate chance to keep a high-powered offense in check.

Here are the players to watch for the Ravens' Week 18 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Clifton Brown Staff Writer

Top Matchup

C Tyler Linderbaum vs. DT D.J. Reader

It may not be a sexy matchup, but it's crucial. The Ravens will likely have to run successfully to win this game, and the 327-pound Reader makes it tough to run against Cincinnati, particularly inside. Linderbaum has risen to many challenges this season as a rookie center, and these two just went toe-to-toe in Week 18. In their rematch this week, the Ravens will need Linderbaum to throw some key blocks to help spring Baltimore's runners.

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