The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals face off in Paul Brown Stadium to end both team's 2015 regular season.
The Bengals are coming off a gut-wrenching loss to the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. Not only did the Broncos pass Cincy in the AFC playoff standings for the No. 2 seed a first-round bye, but did so after the Bengals built a 14-0 lead, only to score three points the rest of the game en route to a 20-17 loss.
As for Baltimore, they're coming off an exhilarating win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two division rivals faced off in a Week 16 clash with the AFC North and a playoff berth at stake for Pittsburgh. A win would have kept the Steelers' playoff hopes alive while also keeping them in the running for the division title since Cincinnati lost Monday night in Denver.
But it was Baltimore who pulled off the massive upset and may have knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs. Now, Baltimore will look to damage another division rival's playoff push with a win in Cincinnati to end their season. They'll also look to do so while playing with their fourth quarterback this season.
After Joe Flacco became their franchise QB and started every game from 2008 to 2014, Flacco went down with a torn ACL back in Week 11, ending his season. Since then, Baltimore has now gone with three different starting quarterbacks in just five weeks with Matt Schaub, Jimmy Clausen and now Ryan Mallett getting starts.
In Week 16, it was Mallett who got the starting nod after he just signed with the Ravens on Dec. 15. Baltimore apparently felt he should get the start, and boy did he prove them right. Mallett finished 28-of-41 passing for 274 yards and a touchdown while taking just one sack and not turning the ball over. That was good enough for a 95.0 passer rating and helped lead Baltimore to a 20-17 win over Pittsburgh.
Unfortunately for Cincinnati, they too are dealing with injuries at the quarterback position. Not only is starter Andy Dalton out indefinitely with a thumb injury, but now backup AJ McCarron is dealing with a wrist injury. On the Bengals' final play in Week 16, McCarron mishandled a shotgun snap as the ball flew through his hands, and as he dove for it, Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware recovered the ball and landed on McCarron's his non-throwing wrist.
Thankfully, it wasn't serious and McCarron has practiced every day this week, looking poised to start Sunday. Also likely making his return this week is star tight end Tyler Eifert; hard-hitting safety George Iloka may be back, too. Both of them have missed much of the past month with injuries, and while Eifert has been a full participant in practice this week, Iloka has been limited.
The Bengals enter this matchup having won four straight games against the Ravens, including a season-sweep last year. However, it is Baltimore who leads the all-time series, but only by a 20-19 margin. A win by the home team here ties the series and makes the Ravens just the fourth franchise the Bengals will have 20 or more wins against (34 vs Titans, 35 vs Steelers, 46 vs Browns being other three).
Here is everything you'll need to watch and follow this Sunday's AFC North clash.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
When: Jan. 3, 2016 at 1 p.m. EST
Location: Paul Brown Stadium
Series Leader: Ravens, 20-19
TV Broadcast: FOX - Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Tony Siragusa (field reporter).
Radio Broadcast: Coverage on the Bengals Radio Network, led by a "triple cast" on Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham. SIRIUS: 113 (Bal), 230 (Cin). XM: 225 (Cin).
Weather: 37 degrees and clear [Weather Underground]
Odds: The Bengals opened as 7-point home favorites, and the line has since risen to 10, per Odds Shark.
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