The Sunday schedule concludes with a primetime affair between two AFC North clubs that are pretty familiar with one another. The Baltimore Ravens will square off with the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s a strange coincidence that these two teams played each other to finish the regular season, with the Bengals earning a 27-16 victory.
These franchises also played back in October, where the Ravens notched a win by a 19-17 final score.
We’ll take a look at three keys to this contest.
What Can Brown Do For You
The Ravens find themselves in a precarious position under center. Starting quarterback Lamar Jackson has missed the last several games with a knee injury, and his status for Sunday’s Wild Card game will come right down to kickoff. Reserve signal caller Tyler Huntley is dealing with wrist and shoulder injuries of his own, and he may not be able to give it a go either.
Rookie quarterback Anthony Brown would get the nod if neither player can suit up. Ironically, he received his first career NFL start in Cincinnati last week, where he went 19/44 for 286 yards and two interceptions. It’s going to be difficult for Brown to put Baltimore on his back in such a tough circumstance, but he might have some additional help this week. Tight end Mark Andrews and running back J.K. Dobbins missed last week’s tilt, but are expected to be ready for the playoff game.
Consecutive Cincinnati Efforts
While the Ravens took a bit of a conservative approach heading into their Week 18 game, the Bengals played it like any other contest. Their key players participated in most of the contest, as they looked to keep their foot on the gas and maintain momentum heading into the postseason.
They had an interesting situation to navigate, as their previous game with the Buffalo Bills was cancelled due to the incident involving safety Damar Hamlin. Cincinnati probably felt like they couldn’t go two straight weeks without contact and live game action if they wanted to maintain their edge. The question will now center around Cincinnati’s freshness and mental ability to defeat the same team twice in two weeks.
Kicking Their Way To Victory
It’s one of the biggest cliches in the NFL, but it really does seem like most games come down to one play. Often times, that play can involve a kicker knocking the ball through the uprights to win a game, or shanking the attempt to lose the contest.
The kickers in this matchup are regarded as two of the very best in the NFL. Cincinnati’s Evan McPherson proved to be a clutch performer during the postseason last year, as he nailed bigtime attempts that advanced the team to the Super Bowl. Baltimore’s Justin Tucker has been the gold standard in the league for a long time, and the Ravens aren’t afraid to let him attempt kicks of over 60 yards. That makes for a fun matchup, since both teams are theoretically in scoring range once they cross midfield.