The first time these two teams played in Week 17 the Bengals were full of hope for a run at the playoffs. This time around they looked ready to make this Marvin Lewis’ last game, and arguably have more to gain from losing (draft positioning) than winning.
We spoke with Kyle Barber of Baltimore Beatdown to find out about the Bengals Week 17 opponent, who are looking to lock up a playoff spot.
Scott Schulze: The Ravens lead the NFL with 33 takeaways by their defense, and had 5 of them in Week 1 against Andy Dalton and the Bengals. Is there anything they have been doing specifically to generate these turnovers all season long, or is it just good luck?
Kyle Barber: Pressure and great coverage. You don't trip and fall into 33 takeaways. The Ravens have a menace on the edge, with Terrell Suggs. He's created multiple strip sacks. I've watched from all the way back in training camp as they practiced turnover creating drills, and it's paying off. With the team also leading the NFL in interceptions, it's due to great coverage, scoring first, and forcing other teams to air the ball out against a great secondary.
SS: Now that the season is winding down, what has been the biggest surprise for the Ravens in 2017?
KB: The offensive line. The Baltimore Ravens suffered multiple season-ending injuries before Week 4, and it felt there season was lost right before their eyes. But Ryan Jensen's skill as an NFL center ramped-up quickly, and Matt Skura managed to solidify the right guard role in place of All-Pro Marshal Yanda.
SS: Breshad Perriman had 4 receptions against the Bengals in Week 17 last year, but only has 10 catches all of this year. What gives? Have the Ravens given up on their former 1st round pick?
KB: Breshad Perriman has not produced in this offense. He cannot find separation against defenders, and when he does he has dropped the football or the pass has been off-target. It's a frustrating cycle, but at this point even Chris Moore and Michael Campanaro are finding success while the former first-round pick cannot produce.
SS: A win for the Ravens secures their spot in the playoffs, while a win for the Bengals negatively impacts their draft spot. Who wins this weekend, and why?
KB: I expect the Ravens to win, but I sure am not looking forward to this game. The Bengals know how to beat Baltimore, but the morale with Cincinnati sounds rather glum. I'm hoping Cincy is just there to get paid and wrap-up this bad season, and ship out Marvin Lewis and start anew. Baltimore knows this isn't a gimme, and I expect them to play that way. Hopefully, in the end, it's a win for the Ravens and zero injuries on both teams' rosters.
SS: Do you guys ever get tired of playing the Bengals every year in Week 17? This is the 3rd straight year, and 7th time in the last 8 years that the season has ended with a Bengals-Ravens game. Any thoughts on why the league seems to schedule this?
KB: I'm exhausted with watching the Ravens vs. Bengals in Week 17. I know it's there for a purpose, though. Both teams are tough to pin down with 'will they, won't they' in post-season chatter. The NFL is hoping these games become 'win and you're in'. The NFL schedulers are confident the Steelers are winning the AFC North. They also want divisional games leaned towards the back end of the schedule to create playoff talk for the later stages of the regular season. They also are hoping the Ravens and Bengals are playing in Week 17 with both teams playoff hopes on the line. Winner advances, while the losers stay home. Unfortunately, this hasn't occurred. Either the Ravens, Bengals or both are eliminated and it becomes a sloppy divisional affair.
Thanks to Kyle Barber for taking the time to answer our questions this week.