The Ravens control their own destiny this week against the Bengals. Baltimore will make the playoffs with a win on Sunday, but Cincinnati will be looking to play spoiler on the heels of a two-game win streak. Here are five keys for the Ravens to avoid an upset.
1) Limit big plays from wide receivers
Baltimore continues to deal with injuries at the cornerback position, with Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Jimmy Smith all being questionable for Sunday. The Bengals have the weapons to give the Ravens problem if multiple players are absent in the secondary. Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins pose the biggest threat in the passing game, but veteran A.J. Green is still around as well, although this may be his last game in Cincinnati. CBs Anthony Averett and Tramon Williams will have to step up to the plate if one or more of the aforementioned injured players are unable to suit up.
2) Dial up the pressure
Baltimore’s defense was able to sack QB Joe Burrow seven times in the first meeting between these two teams earlier this season, with five sacks coming from defensive backs. Brandon Allen will be at quarterback this time instead of Burrow, but the game plan should be similar to last time when it comes to bringing the heat on blitzes.
3) Run it down their throats
The Ravens have reignited their dominant 2019 form of running the ball since the last time they faced the Bengals. Cincinnati’s run defense ranks in the bottom 10 of the NFL, so expect the game plan to heavily feature J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards on Sunday.
4) Keep track of Jessie Bates III
One player that must be accounted for when passing the ball is S Jessie Bates III. Bates is PFF’s highest-graded S entering Week 17. Bates has been a playmaker in the passing game all season, with three interceptions and 15 passes defended this year. QB Lamar Jackson will have to be careful of targeting Bates through the air, specifically when throwing to the middle of the field, which is where Baltimore’s passing attack thrives.
5) Put them away early
The Bengals will be chomping at the bit for the opportunity to spoil a divisional rival’s playoff hopes. The Ravens need to come out strong and take a sizeable lead early on in order to demoralize Cincinnati and crush any hopes they have of pulling the upset.