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Ravens vs. Bengals Game Preview: Focus On Finishing Strong


The Ravens have already won the AFC North and clinched a home playoff game. The six AFC playoff teams are all set, and the postseason implications are minimal for Sunday's regular-season finale with the Cincinnati Bengals. But the Ravens are still heading into Paul Brown Stadium with the mentality

of finishing the regular season on a high note.

"I always go with the mindset that it's never over until it's over," running back Ray Rice said. "Obviously, we won the division, solidified a playoff spot, but you just want to finish the season off right. Finishing off right is being able to say that we [not only] won the division, but we controlled the division."

The Ravens have won four straight games over the Bengals, who are headed to the postseason for the second straight season. The Bengals are locked in as the No. 6 seed in the AFC, while the Ravens will be the third or fourth seed, depending on what happens this weekend.

Regardless of where they stand in the playoff picture, the Ravens insist they aren't looking at this week's game any differently.

"You just look at it like you would any other game," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We're preparing to win the football game, and that's what we plan on doing."

The Bengals have nothing to gain in terms of playoff seeding, but Head Coach Marvin Lewis said they're planning to play their starters and go for the win. The Ravens are also going for the victory, but could rest some of their banged up stars before heading into the postseason.

Whoever does end up playing for the Ravens, the attitude is to get the win and take some momentum into the playoffs.

"We want to go out there and show the world that we are getting better at the end of the year, and we are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs," linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said.

3 Matchups To Watch

C Matt Birk vs. T Geno AtkinsThe Bengals defensive tackle has established himself as one of the premier defenders in the NFL, as he leads all interior lineman with 13 sacks on the year. He's in the conversation for the Defensive Player of the Year race. Atkins got the best of Birk at times in the season opener by registering two sacks, and the Ravens veteran center will look to keep Atkins away from Flacco this week. CB Cary Williams vs. WR A.J. Green
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said earlier this week that Green is the top receiver in the NFL, and Green has the resume to make a strong case for the title. He has 1,324 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, and he will provide a big challenge for Williams in the secondary. In his two games against the Ravens, Green has never scored a touchdown and the Ravens hope to continue that trend this week. RBs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce vs. MLB Vontaze Burfict

The Bengals undrafted linebacker has been one of the rookie surprises of the season, and he leads the Bengals with 151 tackles. He was initially mentioned as a possible draft pick for the Ravens, but he fell out of the draft mostly over off-the-field concerns. Burfict has blossomed in Cincinnati, and he will have a key role in trying to stop Rice and Pierce coming out of the Ravens backfield.

3 Questions To Answer Do the Ravens rest some starters?
The Ravens have some key players on both sides of the ball dealing with injuries, and they could choose to give veterans like Haloti Ngata, Bernard Pollard, Terrell Suggs, Anquan Boldin and Vonta Leach some rest. Head Coach John Harbaugh did not get into the specifics

of who will play, but did acknowledge that some  players dealing with injury could get rest. "We have a number of guys who are banged up a little bit, and some of those guys will play and some of those guys won't," he said. Does Rice have another big day?

* *The last time the Ravens traveled to Cincinnati, Rice racked up 191 rushing yards and two touchdowns. What does he have in store as an encore? The Ravens offense had a big day against the Bengals in the season opener and Rice had 93 total yards and two touchdowns in the 44-13 victory. Another big day for Rice would go a long way in ensuring a Ravens victory. 

Does the offense stay hot?The Ravens offense has been up and down throughout the season, but the unit is coming off one of its best performances of the season, where Flacco threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns. They put up 33 points in a win over the Giants, and they will look to keep that going with another big game heading into the playoffs.

2012 Rankings

RavensTotal Defense – 361.7 (20)
Rush Defense – 127.9 (24)
Pass Defense – 233.9 (17)
Points Allowed Per Game – (21.4) 12

Total Offense – 352.5 (15)
Rush Offense – 113.0 (15)
Pass Offense – 239.5 (13)
Points Scored Per Game – 25.4 (10)

Total Defense – 317.5 (6)
Rush Defense – 100.6 (8)
Pass Defense – 216.9 (10)
Points Allowed Per Game – 20.2 (8t)

Total Offense – 342.3 (20)
Rush Offense – 113.2 (14)
Pass Offense – 229.1 (16)
Points Scored Per Game – 24.5 (12)

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