Sunday night's Ravens-Bengals playoff game will take their rivalry to another level.
The regular-season finale in Cincinnati featured trash talk and physical play, and neither team's season was on the line. The stakes will be much higher on Super Wild-Card Weekend, when the Ravens and Bengals meet Sunday night for the right to advance in the playoffs.
The Ravens say that facing an AFC North opponent on back-to-back weeks, with the season on the line, will only raise the heat in an already intense rivalry that has been building to a boil the past couple years.
"It's definitely picking up for sure," safety Chuck Clark said. "With some of the players that know each other from before and things that have happened within the game over the years between the two teams, it's definitely picking up."
Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase said Wednesday that he didn't appreciate Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith giving him a bump in the end zone after Daryl Worley broke up a pass intended for Chase.
"He was the only one trying to do messy stuff," Chase said, via Ben Baby of ESPN.com. "He did it on purpose. We got something for that."
Asked if the bump bothered him, Chase shook his head and said, "Nah."
Smith surely wasn't bothered. Told that some of the Bengals complained about how the Ravens played in Week 18, Smith broke out smiling.
"See you Sunday," Smith said.
When they see each other Sunday, it will be the first postseason meeting ever between the Ravens and Bengals. But it may not be the last. The arrival of talented players like Chase, Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins within the last three seasons has helped turn the Bengals into a Super Bowl contender that has won two straight division titles.
Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell isn't surprised to be bumping heads with the Bengals again. The Ravens swept the Bengals in both 2019 and 2020, winning by an average of 25.2 points. Last season, the Cincinnati swept Baltimore and put up 41 points in each victory.
After splitting two regular-season games this season, Sunday's rubber match will decide which team moves on, and the Ravens won't be shocked if it's physical again.
"They have a young team that is talented," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "I feel like they had a big chip on their shoulder. In 2019, I wasn't here yet, but the Baltimore Ravens were spectacular. In 2020, we were still very, very good and we played some good ballgames against them. Last year, they came through, and two games getting swept like that, that's rare. It kind of created that mentality where you know you have to be on point or they will embarrass you. It created a rivalry that's probably going to last for awhile."
Roquan Smith Praises Eric DeCosta For His Approach During Negotiations
It has already been a good week for Smith, who agreed to a new five-year contract extension on Wednesday. Smith doesn't have an agent and chose to represent himself during negotiations, and he praised General Manager Eric DeCosta for helping the contract get done with his approach.
"It wasn't an easy process, but I have the utmost respect for Eric," Smith said. "I think he's a very fair, honest guy. A lot of times, people say [that] players can't negotiate without agents and things like that, and that's not something I truly believe in. He was honest [and] kept his word. I can't thank him enough for actually being fair, seeing the value in me, making this happen and making Baltimore home for me."
Smith said staying in Baltimore, playing for a playoff team where he's happy, meant more to him than waiting until March when he could have tested free agency. Smith said he and DeCosta started working on the deal in mid-December and hammered it out via emails and in-person during players' off-days.
"I think, nowadays, players want to be at the table for 100% transparency, and I think if you'll be there and you have respect for the guy you're talking with and you have help from your advisors and things like that, there aren't things you can't do," Smith said. "So, I have the utmost respect for Eric, again, for working with me throughout this process. It turned out great."
Sammy Watkins on Playoffs: 'Just Come to Me'
Ravens wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who caught two passes for 79 yards against the Bengals in Week 18, has a reputation for rising to the occasion in big games. In seven career playoff games, Watkins has caught 26 passes for 500 yards, averaging 19.2 yards per catch.
Watkins got the nickname "Playoff Sammy" in Kansas City when he hauled in seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in the AFC Championship game, then made a huge fourth-quarter catch in the Chiefs' 31-20 win in the Super Bowl.
Asked what he would say to teammates about what it takes to rise up in the playoffs, Watkins said just throw him the ball.
"Honestly, just come to me," Watkins said. "When in doubt, if things get strange, just give me an opportunity. I'm a guy that's going to make something happen. If you feed the fire, it just gets bigger. This is a time when I thrive. I can't wait to go into this game knowing I'm going to have a big game."
Patrick Queen Isn't Focusing on His Next Deal After Smith Signs His
The play of third-year linebacker Patrick Queen has blossomed since Smith's arrival from Chicago in a midseason trade.
Queen and Smith could be the NFL's top inside linebacker combination for years to come if Queen eventually re-signs with the Ravens. Queen has another year remaining on his rookie deal, plus an option for a fifth year. He said he has thought about his next contract but it's not a pressing matter.
"Yes, but at the end of the day, it's not time yet," Queen said. "I'm just focused on football right now. The money will come when it comes. Right now, it's just time to go get a 'W.'"