The Cincinnati Bengals suffered a tough defeat against the Broncos in overtime on Monday night, knocking them from the coveted second seed in the AFC for the time being. The Bengals could still get the second seed back, but it will take a win against the Baltimore Ravens and a loss by the Broncos to the Chargers.
The Ravens are coming off an unexpected win over the Steelers, one that complicated Pittsburgh's playoff positioning, and they'll be looking to do the same to the Bengals despite their injury-ravaged season. The Bengals and Ravens last met in Week 3 in a crazy back-and-forth affair that saw 31 points scored in the fourth quarter alone. Both teams will have different quarterbacks this time around, but expect a similar kind of game, at least early on.
Baltimore at Cincinnati
Kickoff: 1 p.m ET (Sunday)
Spread: Bengals -7
Three Thing to Watch
1. Bengal Bounce Back
The loss Monday night to the Broncos was a tough one but there's still a lot at stake for the Bengals, with a bye still possible. AJ McCarron suffered a sprained wrist as well, calling his status into possible doubt, but being his non-throwing arm, he should be good to go. Divisional games are almost always tight and the Ravens should come in confident and unafraid to take chances. The Bengals don't want to go into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak. Bouncing back and putting together a solid showing will get them on track, and possibly help them secure a bye (though that's probably a long shot).
2. McCarron Progression
The worst part of not getting a bye is that Andy Dalton (thumb) won't be ready for Wild Card Weekend. McCarron had a strong first half against the Broncos, but managed just a field goal drive in the second half and overtime before fumbling the snap that led to the game-winning recovery by the Broncos. Experience is vital for McCarron and he must play through his wrist injury or else the Bengals could have some serious problems heading into the playoffs.
3. Can Tyler Eifert Go?
There's no question the Bengals are a different team without their big tight end. He's missed the last two games with a concussion and is questionable for the season finale. Getting Eifert back would give the Bengals one more game at full strength and a chance for McCarron to get on the same page with all his weapons before the season is on the line. Eifert is a huge mismatch and the Bengals need him badly if they're to make a playoff run.
The Ravens knocked off the Steelers last week, but doing the same to the Bengals in Cincinnati will be a little more difficult. The key for the Bengals is to get a quick two-score lead and tempt the Ravens to get their offseason started early. The Bengals will likely have to play on Wild Card Weekend, so putting in a full game, gaining back some confidence and getting everyone ready to go is paramount.