Really, the Bengals don't need to win their final game of the season. Sure, there are people that swear by momentum and others that enjoy moral victories, but chances are, the outcome of Sunday will not make a difference in the playoff standings. Before you comment and let me know that if the Broncos lose and the Bengals win, then Cincinnati takes the second seed. I know that. My thought is that the Chiefs are not going to lose to the Raiders. So if Denver does lose, Cincinnati's outcome still won't matter. Essentially, the Bengals probably don't need to control their fate.
On the other hand, we want to win. This would give the Bengals a 12 win season. This is the highest win total in not only the Marvin Lewis era but it would tie the franchise record of 12 wins in a season, experienced only during the team's two Super Bowl seasons.. It would make my preseason prediction dead-on (I called for a 12-4 season our podcast). Here's what the Bengals will need to do to collect their 12th win of the season on Sunday.
Keep the foot on the gas
One of the biggest complaints about last weeks loss was the perception that the Bengals got conservative in the second half. The people I was watching the game with had a similar thought that Marvin Lewis rarely puts teams away. Whether this is true or not makes no difference. For now, the Bengals need to put teams away. If you run out to a two touchdown lead, don't get comfortable. After this weekend, every team you face is top notch.
The Bengals should destroy the Ravens. I want to see the offense sharp and able to score. No reason to get conservative. Treat this game as your sandbox and work the offense like you are prepping for the post season. Because, well, you are.
Get the Ball to Green
A.J. Green owns the Ravens. In the past his counterpart, Steve Smith, has owned the Bengals. One of these guys will not be in the game. I expect Green to continue his dominance of Baltimore and add to his stats for the season.
Let Dunlap eat
Carlos Dunlap is on a tear this season at bringing down the quarterback. I would like to see Gunther get creative and help to free Dunlap to cause some damage. In the post season, offensive coordinators are going to see his stats jump off the page. If they game plan for him, they potentially limit their offense. Tone can be set in this game even if the outcome doesn't matter.
Please? The Bengals spent the majority of the season as one of the healthiest teams in the league. Lately it seems they can't catch a break.
Play to win
But WhoDeyFans, several times you mention how this game really doesn't matter. This is true, but, statistically the Bengals have performed better in the post season when they win their final game of the season. I don't want a week or two of fans making excuses about why Cincinnati lost to Baltimore. Sure, it could be because we rested players, or played a vanilla game, but doubts still creep in. This is the year for the Bengals to take that next step, and this is the approach to that step.