1:00 PM ET, December 29, 2013
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Despite a demoralizing defeat in Week 16, there are still a number of ways the Baltimore Ravens can earn the final AFC playoff spot.
The simplest scenarios require the defending Super Bowl champions to march into Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday and hand the AFC North-champion Cincinnati Bengals their first home loss of the season.
A win by the Ravens (8-7) and a loss by either San Diego or Miami is the most likely path to extending their season, but Baltimore can also clinch regardless of the outcome if Miami, San Diego and Pittsburgh all lose. If the Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers win, Miami will claim the wild-card spot.
The Bengals (10-5), who still have a shot at a first-round bye, will not be making things easy on the Ravens by resting their starters.
"We're used to these guys," hobbled Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco said. "They're a good defense. They have been for a few years now. It's always a good test to play a division opponent in their place. They have a lot to play for. We have a lot to play for. It's going to be a good game, a good test."
The Bengals need to win and have New England lose at home against Buffalo in order to hurdle the Patriots for the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
"We want to defend home and make sure we win," Bengals cornerback Pacman Jones told the team's official website. "If it was my choice, I don't want Baltimore to make it. We've got to make sure we defend the house and play all four quarters."
The Ravens made things more difficult on themselves with Sunday's 41-7 home loss to the Patriots.
Flacco, who is working through a left knee injury suffered against Detroit on Dec. 16, went 22 of 38 for 260 yards with two interceptions. He wore a knee brace, but said the injury had no impact on his performance. He plans to wear it again this Sunday.
"I'm going to do it the same way," Flacco told the team's official website. "I really just want to make sure I can be as safe as I can moving forward so nothing crazy happens. I'm pretty comfortable with it. It's not ideal, but it is what it is and it's not that big of an issue."
After the Ravens beat the Bengals 20-17 on Nov. 10 in Baltimore, the change of venue for this one is significant. The Ravens are 2-5 on the road this season, while the Bengals are 7-0 in Cincinnati. The Bengals have averaged 43.5 points over their last four at home, including Sunday's 42-14 division-clinching win over Minnesota.
Andy Dalton threw for four touchdowns and 366 yards against the Vikings, connecting with wide receiver A.J. Green on two of the scores. Green had seven catches for 97 yards, and both are in position to set single-season franchise yardage records this week.
"The goals are good, but we're fighting for a bigger picture," Green said. "When I'm done with this game, maybe it will (mean something), but right now I'm trying to continue to get better."
Dalton, who has 31 touchdown passes, could also establish a single-season record if he throws at least two Sunday. Palmer had 32 in 2005.
"It shows what we've been able to accomplish this year. I think that only happens if we've been winning games and doing some good things," Dalton said. "Personally, it's cool to be close to those records, but like you said, wins are what ultimately matters."
The Ravens' offense hasn't been nearly as effective, scoring one TD over the last eight quarters. However, coach John Harbaugh's team has always responded after lopsided losses. Since 2008, they're 4-0 under him in games following defeats of 20 points or more.
"I think that's part of who we are," Harbaugh said. "If you've been watching us all year, you would know that. You would understand that about us. It's a one-game season as far as we're concerned."
Baltimore is up against a Bengals defense that is ranked sixth in the NFL against both the run and the pass despite losing key players to season-ending injuries. Cincinnati has been without defensive tackle Geno Atkins (torn ACL) for the last six games and cornerback Leon Hall (torn Achilles) for the previous eight.
Baltimore ended last year's regular season with a 23-17 loss to the Bengals -- the Ravens' fourth straight defeat in Cincinnati.
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|Avg Points Allowed||22.0||19.1|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||BAL|
|Rush Yds Allowed||BAL|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Series tied 13-13|
|Nov 10, 2013||BAL 20, CIN 17|
|Dec 30, 2012||BAL 17, @CIN 23|
|Sep 10, 2012||BAL 44, CIN 13|
|Jan 1, 2012||BAL 24, @CIN 16|
|Nov 20, 2011||BAL 31, CIN 24|
|Jan 2, 2011||BAL 13, CIN 7|
|Sep 19, 2010||BAL 10, @CIN 15|
|Nov 8, 2009||BAL 7, @CIN 17|
|Oct 11, 2009||BAL 14, CIN 17|
|Nov 30, 2008||BAL 34, @CIN 3|
|Sep 7, 2008||BAL 17, CIN 10|
|Nov 11, 2007||BAL 7, CIN 21|
|Sep 10, 2007||BAL 20, @CIN 27|
|Nov 30, 2006||BAL 7, @CIN 13|
|Nov 5, 2006||BAL 26, CIN 20|
|Nov 27, 2005||BAL 29, @CIN 42|
|Nov 6, 2005||BAL 9, CIN 21|
|Dec 5, 2004||BAL 26, CIN 27|
|Sep 26, 2004||BAL 23, @CIN 9|
|Dec 7, 2003||BAL 31, CIN 13|
|Oct 19, 2003||BAL 26, @CIN 34|
|Dec 1, 2002||BAL 27, @CIN 23|
|Nov 10, 2002||BAL 38, CIN 27|
|Dec 23, 2001||BAL 16, CIN 0|
|Sep 23, 2001||BAL 10, @CIN 21|
Andy Dalton was intercepted on his first pass Sunday against the Ravens. It was Dalton's eighth career interception against Baltimore, his most versus any team.
With the Ravens now eliminated from the playoffs... Eight straight defending Super Bowl champions have failed to win a playoff game. The last defending Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game was the 2005 Patriots.
Joe Flacco went 0-of-9 with an interception on passes 15-plus yards downfield Sunday, continuing a season-long trend of poor deep balls. Flacco had more touchdowns on such passes in the 2012 postseason (5) than he had this season (3). The nine attempts without a completion on passes 15-plus yards downfield were the most for Flacco in a game in his career.[+]
Joe Flacco Passing 15+ Yards Downfield - Last 2 Seasons
The Bengals used the zone-read option 10 times Sunday for 67 yards and a touchdown, with Andy Dalton accounting for 19 yards and a touchdown on three of those rushes. The Bengals had used the zone read 18 times entering the week, but had no more than six rushes on those plays in a game
According to offensive EPA, the Ravens had the most inefficient offense in the NFL in their last 8 games (since Week 10). During the last 2 games, the Ravens offense contributed -41.8 expected points to their net scoring margin.[+]
Worst Offensive EPA Since Week 10
Joe Flacco had a 13.1 Total QBR against the Bengals, and his combined Total QBR over the last 2 games was 12.2 (1 Pass TD, 5 Int). Flacco averaged 3.8 yards per pass attempt against the Bengals, his lowest average of the season. Flacco is the 3rd-highest paid quarterback in the NFL using the average cash value of the first 3 years of his current contract ($20.7 M). Using that measure, Flacco finished well below the standard of the top 5 highest paid quarterbacks in the league in terms of Total QBR (among qualified quarterbacks).[+]
ESPN Stats & Information