When the Ravens dominated out a number of starters earlier than Sunday’s recreation in Cincinnati, it made the wild-card spherical rematch in opposition to the Bengals subsequent week much more thrilling.
The Ravens (10-7) haven’t been one of many NFL’s most entertaining groups this season, however their rubber match in opposition to the Bengals (12-4) ought to a minimum of have Baltimore followers consuming plenty of purple Kool-Aid and consuming some popcorn in anticipation.
The Bengals beat the Ravens, 27-16, on Sunday to lock up the No. 3 seed, however the rating ought to have been so much worse because the Ravens have been with out quarterback Lamar Jackson, tight finish Mark Andrews, working again J.Ok. Dobbins and proper guard Kevin Zeitler.
The Ravens hung round lengthy sufficient to make a good exhibiting, although the Bengals went conservative offensively within the second half, in all probability as a result of they didn’t need to give away an excessive amount of.
Despite successful its final eight video games, Cincinnati appeared beatable Sunday. It ought to see a distinct Ravens crew subsequent week when it will get nearer to full energy.
In truth, coach John Harbaugh made an important transfer by resting a few of his gamers to arrange for the playoffs, which is win or go house.
“We’re looking forward to the playoffs now,” Harbaugh mentioned. “That’s our next step, into the playoffs. That’s what we’ve been preparing for and we’re looking forward to our opportunity. Everybody is 0-0 going forward. We can’t wait to get started Monday probably; Tuesday is our first work day and we’ll be rolling.”
The relaxation will come in useful. Dobbins has been engaged on strengthening his hamstrings and Andrews has been slowed by an assortment of accidents. Veterans like cornerback Marcus Peters, outdoors linebackers Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive lineman Calais Campbell have confirmed they will’t play many video games in a row with out lacking time due to accidents.
So, you sit Peters and Zeitler and possibly lower down on a number of the repetitions for Pierre-Paul and Houston. If the Ravens are going to make it to the Super Bowl, these guys are going to need to play three straight video games in opposition to the very best groups within the AFC. Any time without work for accidents will probably be a big loss, so it was smart to take a seat a few of them Sunday.
And then there’s the Jackson issue. He has missed the final 5 video games with a sprained knee, however he’ll play this week. The phrase is already out, and Jackson will in all probability be out parading across the apply subject as if he’s right here to avoid wasting the Ravens’ season. If he does, good for him.
If he doesn’t, blame it on the rust and inactivity.
But Jackson is barely a part of the story. These groups don’t like one another, which is why there was plenty of chirping on either side for what was a glorified preseason recreation. It goes again to 2020, when then-Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink’’ Martindale criticized the Bengals for a fourth-quarter subject objective to keep away from a shutout in a 27-3 victory by Baltimore.
Martindale later mentioned some uncomplimentary issues about Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who then torched the Ravens for 82 factors and greater than 1,000 passing yards in two lopsided Cincinnati victories final yr. The Bengals stored throwing lengthy passes late in these video games, which irritated the Ravens.
Baltimore beat Cincinnati, 19-17, in Week 5 to separate the season collection. On Sunday, there was nonetheless plenty of trash speaking happening. It was evident within the fourth quarter when Bengals offensive lineman Carman Jackson blocked Ravens outdoors linebacker Tyus Bowser into Baltimore’s sideline, sparking a shoving match. Ravens followers love to speak in regards to the Steelers rivalry, however these Bengals matchups are juicier.
When working again Joe Mixon scored a landing within the first quarter, he pulled a coin from his glove and flipped it in reference to league officers declaring that if the Ravens had received Sunday, the crew internet hosting the playoff recreation can be determined by a coin flip, although Cincinnati had the next successful share.
The Bengals got here into the sport with a chip on their shoulders.
“It’s a division opponent that we know very well; they know us very well,” Campbell mentioned. “There’s plenty of ardour behind the ballgame. That’s what it’s all about. It’s win or go house.
“Knowing we’re coming back here again definitely played a role in just the mentality, establishing who we are, who we’re going to be. The crowd was intense; they were wild. The crowd was talking a little trash and stuff, and it’s just like, ‘I love the environment.’ It’s all or nothing. We’ll go out here, we’ll prepare the best we can [and] come out here next week and try to win the ball game.”
You’ve obtained to like these things. If the Ravens can’t rise up for this recreation, they should examine some pulses. The extra relaxation will repay as a result of that they had 9 gamers on the damage record this week in comparison with simply two for Cincinnati.
But that’s all meaningless. It’s on. It’s one factor when a participant celebrates as a result of he makes an important run or a catch over an opponent, but it surely’s totally different when a participant drives you into your personal sideline and into the bench space.
That’s offensive. That’s private and embarrassing. The Bengals have been sending a message.
Now the Ravens need to reply it.