There are several scenarios that can send the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens back to the postseason, but the best chance involves shutting down the rival Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.
Baltimore needs a victory, and for Miami or San Diego to lose. However the Ravens could also lock up the final Wild Card spot should the Dolphins, Chargers, and Pittsburgh all lose.
The Ravens also need a little bit of luck. Should Baltimore, Miami, and San Diego all win, the playoff spot belongs to the Dolphins.
The Ravens could be the second straight Super Bowl champion to miss out the playoffs the following season, though they righted 1-4 midseason slide with a four-game winning streak that was stunted by last week’s monumental 41-7 crushing at the hands of New England.
It was an especially rough game for quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw two interceptions and was sacked four times while going 22-for-38 for 260 yards. Flacco has cut down on his turnovers somewhat in the last five games, but may have been bothered by his injured left knee. He’ll reportedly wear a brace for a second straight week.
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Cincinnati, winners of four of their last five and trouncing opponents 162-102, could earn the AFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win and a New England loss. The Bengals clinched their third consecutive trip to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history with a 42-14 win over Minnesota last week.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been on fire of late, slinging 13 touchdown passes to three interceptions in the last five games. Receiver A.J. Green has also rediscovered his top form, making 16 receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games.
Led by linebacker Vontaze Burfict the Bengals defense has risen to fifth overall in the league, and have forced 12 turnovers in the last five games. They’re also fourth among playoff bound teams with 17 interceptions.
Burfict is listed as questionable with a concussion, but he fully participated in Friday’s practice after missing the week’s first two sessions.
Baltimore’s secondary has also risen to the late season occasion, with safety James Ihedigbo notching 94 total tackles and 10 passes defended, and corner Ladarius Webb one of the league’s top leaders with 21 passes defended.
Still the Ravens have injuries on the defensive side of the ball to worry about. Linebacker Elvis Dumervil (ankle) and defensive end Arthur Jones (concussion) are listed as doubtful.
Betting Odds: Cincinnati -6
Over/Under: 44.5 points
TV Channel: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Prediction: Cincinnati 34, Baltimore 20