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Pair of late season dates with the Bengals loom large for the Baltimore Ravens

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AFC North division may not be decided until January

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After the Bengals defeat on Monday night, their first place schedule has produced a 3-5-1 record so far. The Steelers are 4-5 following a home loss to Dallas. Two remaining contests between Cincinnati and the Ravens will go a long way towards determining the division winner.

The first game of the season between the divisional foes is November 27th, when Baltimore plays host in Week 12. Per usual, the Ravens will travel to Cincinnati in the regular season finale. The Week 17 matchup in 2016 will mark a meeting between the Ravens and Bengals for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, including five straight finales in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati has defeated the Ravens in five consecutive games. Over the last three seasons, A.J. Green has consistently trumped the Ravens. In these five games, Green has averaged 121-yards and better than a touchdown per game. In fifteen career contests against the Bengals, Joe Flacco has a 7-8 record with a 15-to-19 interception ratio.

Despite Green’s success and Flacco’s struggles, the Ravens have played the Bengals close by winning the line of scrimmage for the most part. Cincinnati’s average margin of victory in the last four meetings is five and a half points. Many of these games have ultimately been decided by a big passing play late in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens defense is better equipped to handle the the Bengals this season than previous years. Jimmy Smith is playing at a high level and should match up well with A.J. Green. Eric Weddle, C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr have combined to limit tight ends in 2016, they should be able to contain Tyler Eifert. And Steve Smith Sr. has been highly productive against Cincinnati. If the Ravens offensive line is able to protect Flacco against the Bengals 22nd ranked pass rush, the Ravens have a clear opportunity to reverse the trend in the series.

Baltimore is one game ahead of Pittsburgh in the division with seven weeks remaining. The two Ravens - Bengals games will likely determine who emerges as the AFC North champion. A split with the Bengals will give them a chance to stay ahead of the Steelers, while a sweep will put the Ravens in the command of their destiny.