#305 Baltimore Ravensvs.#306 Cincinnati Bengals
Written by Benjamin Hayes
Baltimore Ravens (8-7 SU, 7-8 ATS, 7-7-1 O/U) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1 SU, 6-9 ATS, 6-9 O/U)
When and Where: Sunday, Jan. 1, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Oh., 1pmET
Line: Cincinnati -2.5
Two disappointing teams will face each other in an AFC North contest on Sunday afternoon. The Ravens are coming off a heartbreaking 31-27 loss to Pittsburgh on the road on Sunday night. Cincinnati has lost two straight including a lifeless performance by the offense in a 12-10 loss at Houston. In their first meeting on Nov. 27, the Ravens edged the Bengals, 19-14 at home.
It was a classic Pittsburgh/Baltimore rivalry game on Sunday night. Pittsburgh had a 7-6 halftime lead and then all hell broke lose in the second half as the Ravens appeared to take control when a Justin Tucker 23-yard field goal put them up 20-10 with 14:18 left in the fourth quarter. But the Steelers went right down the field twice, by scoring on two Le’Veon Bell 7-yard runs to take a 24-20 lead with 7:16. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco led the team right down the field, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk finished the drive with a 10-yard run, breaking several tackles on his way to the end zone. But he scored with 1:18 left in the game, leaving Ben Roethlisberger plenty of time to head down the field against a soft Ravens’ prevent defense. A 4-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown, who stretched out to get the ball over the plane with nine seconds left.
The bottom line is that the Ravens couldn’t get the job done on defense when they had two fourth-quarter leads. But the offense also settled for four Tucker field goals, which has been an issue all season. Flacco did about all he could, passing for 262 yards (30-44) with one TD and pick as time expired. The Ravens also ran the ball for 122 yards, but seven penalties for 95 yards hampered the team and has been an issue all season long. Baltimore ranks 18th in the NFL with 348.5 yards per game and 26th in rushing yards per game (92.7ypg). They rank 5th in total defense (318.9ypg) and second against the run (85.1ypg), even though they’ve struggled the last two weeks against Bell and Ryan Mathews.
Cincinnati didn’t score a touchdown until there was 10:45 left in the game on an 86-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton. At that point, the Bengals were up 10-6 but that lead fizzled on the next possession when Houston’s Alfred Blue rushed for a 24-yard touchdown with 8:41 left in the game. That put the Texans up 12-10 and after a missed extra point, all the Bengals needed was a field goal to win the game or at least go ahead. Randy Bullock did get the chance to win the game, but Randy Bullock’s 43-yard attempt went wide right as time expired to allow the Texans to win the second straight AFC South title.
That was an appropriate ending for a disastrous season for the Bengals, who some had picked to get to the Super Bowl in preseason. The Bengals have lost five of their last seven games to become a non-entity and a team looking for a high draft pick. That could be why they are holding out Pro Bowl WR A.J. Green (hamstring) from the last two games when he felt he could play. Without Green and speedy running back Gio Bernard (ACL), the Bengals’ offense has lacked explosive playmakers. Jeremy Hill leads the Bengals with 839 yards and nine TDs, while Dalton adds 3,980 yards passing with 17 TDs and eight picks (91.3 QB rating). The Bengals average 356 yards per game (14th) and 248.3 passing yards per game. They allow 351.8 yards per game (235.8ypg) and are 22nd against the run (116).
These teams will fight hard because this is still a rivalry game. But the Bengals without Green won’t have much left to give. Steve Smith is expected to retire after this game so expect him to go out with a big game. Baltimore won’t have Antonio Brown to worry about in this game. They also won’t have to worry about TE Tyler Eifert (back) either.
The first game went way under the total and even though I worry about the Ravens’ corners without Jimmy Smith, the Bengals don’t have Green or Eifert. That evens it out and I expect another low-scoring game from Cincinnati. The Bengals are 6-1 Under last 7 overall, while Baltimore is 6-2 Under last 8 in Week 17.
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Ben has been a sports writer for over 30 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for over 25 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13!