Amidst their three-game winning streak, the Ravens will travel to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the 4-10-1 Bengals this Sunday. With a victory, the Ravens will clinch a Wild Card berth in the postseason.
No, Joe Burrow will not be throwing the football; Brandon Allen, who has made a number of starts this season, assumes to be the starter at quarterback this week after a victory over Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans in Week 16.
This past Sunday, Allen completed 29-of-37 pass attempts for 371 yards and two touchdowns. Although the Texans are among the worst teams against the pass this season, Allen and the Bengals cannot be taken lightly as they are the only thing standing in Baltimore’s path of a third consecutive playoff birth.
All Ravens fans are familiar with the team controlling their playoff destiny, as they were unable to do exactly that in 2017 when the infamous 4th-&-12, Andy Dalton-to-Tyler Boyd touchdown pass tarnished Baltimore’s playoff dreams.
Coincidentally, the Ravens must go through the Bengals once more.
Earlier this season during Week 5, the Ravens did a very good job against the Burrow-led Bengals. The defense in particular had a stellar performance and found plenty of pass rush success as Burrow was sacked a whopping seven times. The defense also forced three turnovers as attacking the football seemed to be a theme all game.
Let’s take a look at the game script.
The Ravens deferred their toss to the second half, which prompted the Bengals to start the game on offense. On their opening drive, Burrow and the Bengals started modestly with a 14-yard connection to Drew Sample. They were unable to string together another first down and went three and out.
On Baltimore’s first possession, Devin Duvernay took an end around and used his speed to gain 42 yards on the play. Jackson and the Ravens couldn't move the ball much further and had Justin Tucker nail a 46-yard field goal. Ravens take a 3-0 lead.
On Cincinnati’s next possession, Burrow found Tee Higgins for a solid 26-yard gain to move the Bengals into Ravens territory.
However, Baltimore’s defense held strong and eventually forced a turnover on downs as Burrow was unable to connect with Tyler Boyd on 4th-&-3.
Starting with great field position at their own 38, the Ravens began to march down the field. Plays made by the likes of Mark Ingram, Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, and Jackson eventually led to a touchdown-scoring opportunity. On third down from the five yard-line, Jackson zipped a ball to Andrews for a touchdown. Baltimore extends their lead to 10-0.
In response, Burrow and the Bengals once again struggled to stymie the Ravens defense. On a 3rd-&-10, Burrow, under pressure, forced a throw to the deep middle part of the field where his ball was intercepted by Marcus Peters.
Starting at Cincinnati’s 31 yard-line, it only took three plays to score another touchdown as Jackson found Brown for a two-yard score. Baltimore leads 17-0.
On Cincinnati’s next drive, the Bengals slowly but surely made their way into Baltimore territory.
The eighth play of the drive saw Burrow find himself under pressure and he escaped the pocket only to be blindsided by Patrick Queen, subsequently resulting in a forced fumble and recovery for the Ravens.
Looking to put the Bengals away early, Jackson and the Ravens found themselves facing a 4th-&-6, where a deep pass intended for Andrews was just out of his reach. The Bengals took over at their own 46, couldn't gain any momentum, and punted back to the Ravens.
Punts were traded by both teams afterwards, and Baltimore receive the ball back with just under two minutes left in the half. Looking to put away the Bengals early, J.K. Dobbins took a sweep and turned upfield for 34 yards. Afterwards, the Ravens ran three straight pass plays.
Unable to gain more yardage, Jackson and the Ravens encountered a 3rd-&-10 and Jackson’s pass attempt was intercepted by Logan Wilson — who made a very deceitful fake blitz drop in coverage.
Despite the interception, the Bengals couldn't do anything with the football before half.
To begin the third quarter, both teams were slow to come out of the gate as two punts by each team were traded. On Baltimore’s next drive, heavy reliance on the run game pushed Baltimore into Bengals territory.
A couple of long runs from Ingram gave the Ravens another scoring opportunity. Unable to move the chains, Tucker came out for another field goal, this time hitting the kick from 39 yards. The Ravens extend their lead to 20-0.
After the field goal, two more punts were traded with one by each team. With 11:23 left in the game, Burrow and the Bengals needed to score touchdowns to find a way back into the game.
After converting a first down, a pass caught by Mike Thomas was stripped by Marlon Humphrey, recovered by Queen, and returned for a 53-yard touchdown to extend the Baltimore lead to 27-0. Cincinnati’s next drive was their best one, but it ended with a field goal as to avoid being shut out.
Ravens routed the Bengals 27-3.
What can we expect this Sunday?
I believe Jackson and the Ravens will come out determined, focused, and ready to take care of business.
Uniformity and the achievement of a common goal has persisted ever since the team's loss against New England. Since then, the Ravens have been one of the hottest, most consistent teams in the NFL, and such a trend should continue this Sunday.
Offensively, Jackson has been no less than superb, and I expect him to victimize the Bengals like he is accustomed to doing. J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards are also peaking at the right time and should find success against the 25th-ranked Cincinnati Bengals rush defense.
Defensively, the Ravens should absolutely feast against a weaker Bengals offense. Without Burrow, the Bengals are undoubtedly weaker, but plenty of offensive talent exists and has the ability to make plays and take over a game.
What comes to mind are Cincinnati’s receivers led by the likes of A.J. Green, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd.
Should Baltimore’s secondary, who has performed considerably well despite the absences of Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith, limit the capabilities of Cincinnati’s receiving corps, it will be very difficult for the Bengals to move the ball on offense.
Fans shouldn't anticipate a blowout victory, but nonetheless, I foresee a routine victory and subsequent playoff birth on the horizon for the Baltimore Ravens.