Despite playing in a notably weak division this year, the Bengals (3-6-1) are in a situation where they virtually are required to win this week if they want to have any shot of making the playoffs. With six weeks left to go, the scenarios are still pretty muddy, but suffice it to say, winning at least the rest of their division games would be a pretty good start. Other than that, they still have to contend with the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles, both of whom could be handled. But, it all starts with how the Bengals play against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12.
At the moment, the Bengals are on a bit of a hot streak against the Ravens. In fact, the five-game win streak is the longest win streak the Bengals have had in this series and the second longest either team has had, just behind the Ravens’ six game win streak from 1998-2000. That number probably won’t change much about the matchup itself this week, but it does show that the Bengals have been able to take care of business against the Ravens in recent years.
When Andy Dalton and A.J. Green first came to the Bengals in 2011, the Bengals were actually on another hot streak against the Ravens, having won nine of their last 13 matchups. The Ravens did win the final game between the two teams of the 2010-11 season, which signaled a bad upcoming year for the Bengals in this matchup. The Ravens went on to sweep the Bengals in the 2011-12 season en route to a division championship.
The next year, 2012-13, the Bengals lost a fourth game in a row to the Ravens, but got their first in the series of the Dalton-Green era. The win was an important one for the Bengals, who used the victory to propel themselves to the AFC’s No. 6 seed and make the playoffs for a second consecutive year (their first consecutive playoff berths since the 1982-83 season and the second time ever).
The Bengals lost their first matchup with the Ravens of the 2013-14 season on November 10, 2013. You might remember that game as the time A.J. Green caught a 51-yard Hail Mary from Andy Dalton to tie the game at the very end of regulation.
The Bengals put together a strong drive to kick off overtime and managed to get into field goal range. But, Marvin Lewis made the fateful decision to go for it on fourth and two and ended up losing 11 yards in the process. It virtually set the Ravens up for an easy drive that ended in a game-winning field goal by Justin Tucker.
Still, the fact that the Bengals nearly managed to pull off the sweep over the Ravens after beating them early in the season helped the Bengals build momentum in the series. So much momentum, in fact, that they haven’t lost a game to the Ravens since. Later that season, the Bengals handled the Ravens by a convincing score of 34-17, sweeping them in both the 2014-15 season and the 2015-16 season.
Rarely in the history of this series do you see the teams alternating wins. It did happen once for a brief spell as the Bengals won both of their matchups with the Ravens in the Ravens’ inaugural 1996-97 season, lost the first matchup of the 1997-98 season, won the second, then lost the first matchup of the 1998-99 season. But, that loss kicked off the aforementioned six game win streak for the Ravens as the Bengals went through arguably their worst stretch in franchise history (11-37 from 1998-2000).
This Sunday, the Bengals will look to extend their current win streak over the Ravens. If the Bengals are able to pull off a win without A.J. Green, it would not only will it tie the longest win streak between the franchises through their histories, but it will reinforce the Bengals’ chances to turn things around and shock the league by making the playoffs. If they can’t come up with the win in Baltimore, the Bengals will no longer have any control over their own destiny and would need to rely on improbable scenarios to have a chance at making a comeback in the division.