Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 31, 4:25 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium
TV: CBS/WJZ-TV (Ch. 13)
TV Crew: Ian Eagle (play-by-play), Dan Fouts (analyst), Evan Washburn (sideline)
TV Coverage: *View Map
*Radio: 98 Rock | WBAL-1090 AM
Local Radio Crew: Gerry Sandusky (play-by-play), Stan White (analyst), Jarret Johnson (analyst)
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Jersey Color: Purple
It doesn’t get any bigger than this. If the Ravens win, they get into the playoffs. It would be the Ravens’ seventh trip in the past 10 seasons, but first since 2014. Baltimore can still get a playoff berth even with a loss, but it would take a loss from the Buffalo Bills or Tennessee Titans, and the Ravens don’t want to put it in anyone else’s hands.
The Ravens shut out the Bengals, 20-0, to kick off the 2017 season in Cincinnati. It was a dominant performance that Baltimore wants to replicate. The Ravens and Bengals will have met in Week 17 seven of the past eight years, but this will be the first time it’s happened in Baltimore since 2011. The Bengals have won the past four regular-season finales, though playoff bids weren’t always on the line.
*The Beginning of ‘January Joe’? *Joe Flacco has been very good in December, throwing seven touchdowns to just one interception in four games with an average quarterback rating of 98.3. As the calendar prepares to turn to January 2018, can Flacco continue his hot streak or even take another step forward to release “January Joe” as the Ravens embark on the playoffs?
Measuring the Defense’s Dominance
Baltimore’s defense created chaos in Week 1 with five turnovers and five sacks, and they’re looking to do it again. The Ravens had just two sacks each of the past two weeks against the Browns and Colts, and want to get more pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton. Baltimore also dropped some chances at interceptions last week. The Ravens want to flex their muscles against the Bengals, who have the league’s lowest-ranked total offense.
The Ravens have a lot on the line. The Bengals, on the other hand, are out of the playoff mix. However, this could be Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis’ last game, and his players may look to send him out with a bang with a road win against a division rival. The Ravens fully expect the Bengals to play the “spoiler role” and try to knock them out.
Matchups to Watch
CB Marlon Humphrey vs. WR A.J. Green
Green has a long history of burning the Ravens with big plays and may be the Bengals’ best chance at pulling off an upset win. He was limited to five catches for 74 yards in the regular-season opener, but that was with Jimmy Smith mostly lined up opposite him. Smith picked off a pass in front of Green to seal the shutout. Humphrey has done an excellent job of stepping in for Smith since he went down with his torn Achilles in Week 13, but this may be his biggest test yet.
LB C.J. Mosley vs. RBs Joe Mixon/Giovani Bernard
Mixon is dealing with an ankle injury that limited him to just three carries last week. The talented first-round rookie is listed as questionable to play. When Mixon went to the sideline last week, however, Bernard exploded with 168 total yards and a touchdown. Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams said Bernard has Le’Veon Bell-like tendencies.
WR Mike Wallace vs. CB William Jackson
Wallace has led the Ravens receivers recently, averaging 84 yards per game over the past four weeks. Jackson is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, however, ranking 10th overall on Pro Football Focus. Jeremy Maclin burned the Bengals with a 48-yard touchdown in Week 1, but he’s doubtful to play in the rematch. Which wide receiver will step up this time?