|1:25 PM PT2:25 PM MT3:25 PM CT4:25 PM ET21:25 GMT5:25 2:25 PM MST4:25 PM EST3:25 PM CT1:25 UAE (+1)16:25 ETNaN:� , December 31, 2017|
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland Weather: 19°, Cloudy Attendance: 70,507
Ravens embrace 'win-and-we're-in' mentality
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
- The Bengals defeated the Lions, 26-17, at home last Sunday, snapping a three-game losing streak, and improving to 3-0 when scoring over 24 points this season. Marvin Lewis, who may be coaching Cincinnati for the last time this weekend, has a franchise-record 124 career victories as head man for the Bengals -- fourth most among active head coaches.
- Baltimore held on for a 23-16 victory over Indianapolis at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 16, and is now one win away from clinching its first trip to the playoffs since 2014. The Ravens are 5-1 in their last six games -- tied for best in the NFL since Week 11.
- The Ravens beat the Bengals, 20-0, in these clubs' first meeting of the season in Week 1 at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati and Baltimore have split the last four games at M&T Bank Stadium, all of which were decided by seven or fewer points.
- Giovani Bernard had 23 carries for 116 yards and a score last Sunday, reaching paydirt for the second consecutive game, and recording the third 100+ yard rushing performance of his NFL career. Bernard also caught a season-high seven passes for 52 yards in last week's triumph.
- Joe Flacco threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns (0 INT) in Week 16, recording his third 100+ rating of the season, and just his fifth such performance since the beginning of 2016 overall (Ravens are 5-0 in those games). Flacco has seven TD passes versus just one interception in his last four games (nine touchdowns and 11 INT in first 13 games of the season).
- Including three in last week's win, Justin Tucker has made exactly 200 regular-season field goals in his NFL career -- most of any kicker since he joined the league in 2012. Tucker is the only qualifying kicker (minimum 125 XPA) who has not missed a single extra point since 2012.
BALTIMORE -- The formula is simple for the Baltimore Ravens.
With a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular-season finale Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens would clinch the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs.
Baltimore (9-6) also can advance to the postseason for the first time since 2014 if both the Buffalo Bills (8-7) and Tennessee Titans (8-7) lose or tie. The Ravens, however, are fully focused on controlling their own destiny and are not taking the Bengals lightly, despite Cincinnati's 6-9 record.
"You definitely don't look past the Bengals," Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "You always know that's a tough game, and we've got to make sure we start fast."
The Ravens, who won five of their past six games, are averaging 29.8 points in their past eight games. Quarterback Joe Flacco has played a key role in that resurgence, throwing 11 touchdown passes against just four interceptions over that stretch.
"Our goal is to get to playoffs, and once you get to those games, you can't rely on winning by 20 or 30 points," Flacco said. "You have to be able to rely on playing 60 minutes and being able to have the nerve and everything else that goes along with that."
Baltimore dominated the Bengals and forced five turnovers in a 20-0 victory in the regular-season opener. The Ravens won in Cincinnati for the first time since 2012.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh and his players expect a tougher matchup this time around. The Ravens and Bengals traditionally have a tight rivalry. Baltimore holds a slight 22-21 advantage in the series.
The Bengals are effective getting to quarterbacks, as they are tied for seventh in the NFL with 40 sacks. Harbaugh is wary of that defense.
"They have a very good defensive line -- one of the best in the league," Harbaugh said. "They are a very tough group to block, so we are going to have to be at our best."
The regular-season finale could also mark the end of coach Marvin Lewis' 15-year tenure in Cincinnati. Therefore, his players might be looking to send him out on a high note. The Bengals have not won a playoff game since the 1990 season, and Lewis has gone 0-7 in the postseason.
Lewis dismissed the notion this could be his last game.
"Emotional? Why? Do you know something I don't know?" said Lewis, who is a former Ravens defensive coordinator. "We had to battle the war of attrition once again. Guys had to step up and play. We're not done yet."
Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap said of Lewis, "I would love to see him come back as a football coach, but obviously, the decision is I guess his to make. The respect between him and the organization is mutual. So, whatever happens is going to happen."
The Bengals have struggled this season partly because of their failure to move the ball. They have the league's 32nd-ranked offense and been hampered with injuries. In his past three games, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown for two touchdowns while getting picked off four times.
However, Cincinnati had an uplifting 26-17 victory last week against the Detroit Lions, who were consequently eliminated from the playoffs. Dalton vowed the Bengals plan to play hard until the final whistle.
"Complacency can set in, but that's what you have to fight at this point," Dalton said.
A victory over Cincinnati would send Baltimore to play the AFC West-champion Chiefs at Kansas City during the first round of the playoffs.
The Ravens typically are at their best during this point of the season. Baltimore is 16-7 at home in December under Harbaugh, who took over the team 2008. Still, the Ravens are wary.
"We expect that (Cincinnati) team to be highly motivated come Sunday," Harbaugh said, referencing Lewis' status.
The Baltimore players are embracing the must-win scenario.
"For us, over the last four or five weeks, it's been that win-and-you're-in mentality," tight end Benjamin Watson said. "We've understood that it's important for us to win every single week, especially in December, late in the season. Although this is the next opponent and the most important game right now for us this season, it's kind of the mode we've already been in, understanding the urgency of 'right now.'"
Updated December 28, 2017