Here's a quick four-point preview between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens this weekend.
The Advantage Of Paul Brown Stadium And Marvin Lewis
The Cincinnati Bengals were 4-10 against the Ravens, including a record of 3-4 at Paul Brown Stadium dating back to Baltimore's inaugural season in 1996 through Cincinnati's two-win season in 2002. Then Marvin Lewis was hired and since then, the Bengals have won six of eight games at home with a record of 10-7 overall against Baltimore.
Additionally the Bengals have won five of the previous six games against the Baltimore Ravens when the game is played at Paul Brown Stadium with Lewis sporting a 6-2 home record against the Ravens.
The Bengals are 14-17 against the Ravens, hardly a poor record against one of the league's constant powerhouses.
Ravens Looking To Go Undefeated In The AFC North
In some ways the 2009 Cincinnati Bengals are much like their 2011 counterpart, following up a four-win campaign, playing well beyond the poor preseason expectations. The Bengals were not only crowned as AFC North champions, they crushed the division by going undefeated, sweeping teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, both of whom played in the AFC Conference Championship game the year prior.
The 2011 Baltimore Ravens are on their way to accomplishing the same milestone against the AFC North this year. The only team standing in their way is the Cincinnati Bengals, who needs to beat the Ravens to make the playoffs. It would be the first time in franchise history that the Ravens go through the gauntlet of the AFC North without a blemish on their record.
"That’s the opportunity that we have," said head coach John Harbaugh. "If you go undefeated at home and win all the games in your division, you’re probably going to be in pretty good shape at the end of the year no matter what else happens."
The Cincinnati Bengals haven't played well under those parameters this year. Even though they've beaten teams that they're supposed to beat with a surprising 5-3 record on the road, if the Bengals beat the Ravens this weekend, they'll only achieve .500 against the AFC North with a 5-3 home record.
Everyone Has Something To Play For
If the Bengals are hoping for a relaxed game by the Baltimore Ravens resting their starters for the playoffs, think again.
Since the New England Patriots kickoff at 1 p.m. on Sunday, the Ravens will know if they have a fighting chance to secure the number one seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. With a Patriots loss and a Ravens win, Baltimore will secure it.
If the Patriots beat the Bills, the Ravens are still in a position to secure the second seed and a first round bye with a win, crowning them AFC North Champions. The only way the Steelers can win the AFC North and the first round bye is if the Bengals beat the Ravens and Pittsburgh takes care of business against the Cleveland Browns.
And the Bengals have something to play for too.
Ravens Known For Playing Poor Road Games
The Ravens are 3-4 on the road this year, with notable losses against the San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguar and the Tennessee Titans, all of whom are a combined 26-34 this season.
The three road games Baltimore has won this year is Pittsburgh, the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns.