Ravens take pride in winning AFC North
The Ravens' game at Cincinnati Sunday is viewed by many as meaningless, but don’t tell that to the players or coaches. True, both the Ravens and Bengals have earned playoff berths, and both their slots in the postseason are most likely already determined. The Ravens might rest some players, but they speak often of momentum and do not want to head into the playoffs after a loss. Still, judging by the national pundits, they will do just that. Here is how some of the national media see Sunday’s game:
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Bengals 27, Ravens 20
“This meaningless game has plenty of meaning for the Bengals, who need to convince themselves that they can beat the Ravens, in order to obtain the confidence that they can do something else they haven’t done in an even longer time — win in the playoffs.”
Vinnie Iyer, The Sporting News: Bengals 19, Ravens 16
The Ravens no longer need this game to win the AFC North, but this test against the red-hot Bengals defense will be a good tune-up for their new-look offense. The Bengals have also nailed down a playoff spot, and their goal will be a clean, disciplined effort. It's important for the young home team to build more confidence by following up its big victory against Pittsburgh with inspired play against Baltimore.
Elliott Harrison, NFL.com: Ravens 24, Bengals 21
"The Baltimore Ravens are playing solely for playoff positioning, hoping to vault into the No. 3 seed. That's key should someone knock off the 1 seed in the divisional round. (Hey, you never know.) The key to this game will be how the Cincinnati Bengals handle Ray Rice, who got 30 touches for 158 yards in the Ravens' rout of the Giants last Sunday. Also, can the Bengals' pass rush make life miserable for Joe Flacco? Cincy gave him far too much time to throw in the teams' first meeting."
Peter King, SI.com: Bengals 24, Ravens 16
“Jeopardy answer: NFC, Seattle. AFC, Cincinnati. Jeopardy question: "What are the two most dangerous Wild Cards in the NFL this season, Alex?"
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: Bengals 23, Ravens 17
“This game means nothing for the Bengals because they are locked into the sixth seed. It could mean something for the Ravens, who could move up to the third seed. Even so, I expect the Bengals to play to win. They want to roll into the playoffs feeling good. Cincinnati will get after Joe Flacco with the pass rush. Bengals take it.”
Peter Schrager, FoxSports.com: Bengals 30, Ravens 20
“With Andy Dalton and A.J. Green in Cincinnati, the Bengals have made the playoffs twice, but they still haven’t beaten the Ravens. I have a feeling Baltimore might be resting some troops, while Cincinnati goes full speed. Take Cincinnati, cue the “Everything’s still wrong with the Ravens” storyline Sunday night, and ignore it all come next week.”
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Ravens 21, Bengals 14
“At first glance this might look like a big game, matching up two playoff teams. But with the Bengals locked into the No. 6 seed and the Ravens highly likely to end up with the No. 4 seed, neither of these teams has a lot to play for. I think the Ravens, however, will be a little more motivated to build on the momentum from last week’s win over the Giants and will take this one.”