Friday, December 28, 2012
Final Word: AFC North
By Jamison Hensley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:
Don't be surprised to see the Ravens ride RB Ray Rice against the Bengals on Sunday.
Running wild: While it's unknown how much the Ravens starters will play, it's proven that Baltimore increases its chances of winning by giving the ball more to running back Ray Rice. After getting fewer than 25 touches in each game during the Ravens' three-game losing streak, Rice got 30 in the Week 16 win over the Giants. Since the Ravens drafted Rice in 2008, they are 23-3 in games in which he gets at least 25 touches, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Rice also is the key to success against the Bengals. He has run for 363 yards in his past three games against them, with 301 of those yards coming before initial contact. That’s the most rush yards before contact for any player against a single opponent since the start of the 2011 season.
Going for the elusive sweep: With a 20-14 win over the Steelers already under their belt, the Browns are looking for their first season sweep of Pittsburgh since 1988. How long ago is that? Cleveland running back Trent Richardson was 3 years old at that time, and the Browns' wins came at two places that no longer exist -- Three Rivers Stadium and Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Since that sweep, the Browns have gone 10-33 (.233) against the Steelers and have been swept by Pittsburgh 11 times.
Sophomore sizzle: Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has 160 catches in his first two seasons, which is the fourth-most in NFL history. He needs nine catches against Baltimore to surpass Marques Colston for the most receptions during the first two seasons in the league. His 2,381 yards receiving is the sixth-most in a player's first two years in the NFL. With 116 yards receiving this past Sunday, Green has produced five games with at least 100 yards receiving this season. No player in Bengals history has ever had six such games in one season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Finishing strong: The Ravens and Steelers are among the best in the NFL when it comes to finishing off the regular season. Since 2000, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are 10-2 in the last game of the regular season. Only the Packers, who are 11-1, have a better record. In fact, the Steelers' only losses in the regular-season finale during that span have been to Baltimore. The Ravens have won six straight regular-season finales and 10 of their past 12 overall. The Packers and Chargers are the only other teams to win each of their past six regular-season finales.
Touchdown terror: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown 46 touchdown passes in 31 career games. The only quarterbacks who have passed for more in their first two seasons in the NFL are: Dan Marino (68) and Peyton Manning (52), according to ESPN Stats & Information. But, in three career games against Baltimore, Dalton has thrown one touchdown and four interceptions. His minus-3 touchdown-to-interception differential is his worst against any opponent, and his career passer rating against Baltimore is 63.8.