The Baltimore Ravens may not be able to win the division anymore with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday following the no-contest ruling of the Bengals’ Week 17 game against the Buffalo Bills, but both teams still have plenty to play for. If the Ravens win this Sunday and the two teams meet again the following week in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, then home-field advantage will be decided by a coin toss.
What are some of the key matchups to keep track of this Sunday when Baltimore takes on Cincinnati?
Ravens cornerbacks vs. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins
It is currently unclear who will suit up opposite Marlon Humphrey at cornerback for the Ravens against the Bengals, as both Marcus Peters (calf) and Brandon Stephens (illness) are listed as questionable to play on Sunday. Without Higgins available in their last meeting, Baltimore held Chase to 50 receiving yards on seven catches. With Higgins on the field this time, the Ravens will not be able to deploy the same game plan to bottle up Chase.
Humphrey vs. Chase is perhaps the most exciting matchup of the game, but Higgins vs. Baltimore’s No. 2 cornerback has the potential for a bigger impact on the outcome of the contest. The third-year wideout crossed 1,000 receiving yards for the second year in a row and would be the top weapon on many teams in the league. Whether it’s Stephens or Peters in his first game back from injury, the Ravens will have a tough time containing both of these elite playmakers.
Trey Hendrickson vs. Ronnie Stanley
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley’s return to the field after missing the better part of two seasons has been one of the major positives for Baltimore this season. The former All-Pro picked up where he left off as one of the league’s premier blindside protectors in his return earlier this season. Stanley, unfortunately, suffered another ankle injury that sidelined him for multiple weeks in November. Since returning in Week 14 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Stanley has not quite been as effective. From Week 14-17, he allowed 9 of his total 12 pressures on the season, according to PFF. While still extremely solid and much better than any alternative at left tackle, it has been clear that the injury has affected Stanley’s play to a degree.
Stanley will have a big test this week against one of the league’s top edge rushers in Trey Hendrickson. Despite missing Week 10 with an injury and having last week’s game against the Bills cut short, Hendrickson still ranks 15th in the NFL in total pressures with 58, according to PFF, to go with seven sacks. Stanley will have to be on his best performance this Sunday in order for Baltimore’s offense to have a chance to keep up on the scoreboard.
Ravens' No. 2 rushing attack vs. Bengals’ No. 5 run defense
With Jackson out of the picture for over a month now, the Ravens have relied more than ever on their rushing attack. Spearheaded by third-year running back J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore currently ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards with 2,610, only behind the Chicago Bears. Even with the Steelers selling out to stop the run last week, the Ravens were still able to pick up 120 yards on the ground, with 93 coming from Dobbins on 17 carries.
It is obvious that opposing defenses do not respect Baltimore’s passing attack, especially without Jackson at the helm and wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay both out for the season. This leads to more players near the line of scrimmage, daring backup quarterback Tyler Huntley to beat them through the air with a less-than-ideal receiving corps. If the Ravens want to have any chance of pulling the massive upset this Sunday, then they will have to do what they do best and run the football effectively against the NFL’s fifth-best run defense.
Baltimore rushed for 155 yards in the first meeting between these two teams in Week 5, but that was with Jackson leading the offense with 58 yards on the ground, a clearly hobbled Dobbins at the time, and no Gus Edwards.