It’s been a whirlwind week for the Cincinnati Bengals, to say the least. And, to finish the season, they have a game against the Baltimore Ravens that suddenly has more to play for than originally thought just a few days ago.
To get the inside scoop on the Ravens and this matchup, we tapped the knowledge of Kyle Barber over at SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown site. Here’s our Q & A for the rematch:
1.) AC: Let’s just be blunt about it: What’s going on with Lamar Jackson? Reports said his knee issue would be a 1-2 week thing and now he’s missing his fifth game because of it. Is there anything here pointing to protecting himself for the contract and/or because they knew they had a playoff spot sewn up and wanted to preserve him?
KB: On Friday, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh addressed the media regarding the situation with Lamar Jackson. He essentially said the reason they haven’t had updates is due to the Ravens not having one.
There never was an official timeline released. Both Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter gave their reports but Harbaugh and the team never confirmed Jackson’s injury or the timeline to return, really.
It’s hard to not speculate that this is related to anything due to his contract or desire to continue playing for the Ravens, but we just do not know anything. That’s the way it’s been with Jackson since the beginning.
He doesn’t have an agent. He doesn’t communicate with the fans or with national reporters and as such, there is less information regarding him which opens up the floodgates to speculation.
I do believe part of this is due to securing a playoff spot, but also from what I’ve heard, he’s still dealing with the knee injury and could not play in any of these games.
2.) AC: Earlier this week and even into Thursday, I was pretty certain both teams were going to sit their starters in this one and resign to the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds, respectively—particularly as to not tip hands and preserve health for a potential rematch the very next week. That’s changed a bunch for the Bengals—has it for the Ravens now that the AFC North crown is out of reach?
KB: My assumption now is the Ravens will go out there and attempt to win this game early. If they can get a lead built up, they’re going for the win and the hope they can get the coin flip scenario. However, if the Bengals come out and hang 10+ points in the first couple drives, I’d imagine the Ravens would call off the dogs and prepare for next week, wisely.
3.) AC: Speaking of the division title, how did the league’s response to this week’s happenings sit with you and/or Ravens Nation? Obviously, the health of Damar Hamlin and his progress (which is amazing) are at the forefront of all priorities, but the fallout is being felt everywhere. Bengals fans are pretty livid about the potential of a coin toss to determine a playoff game venue with the division crown in hand, but I’d assume Baltimore might be miffed that the AFCN title wasn’t even on the line this week?
KB: Some Ravens fans are miffed that the Ravens could beat the Bengals twice and not win the division. However, they’re all under the assumption that the backup quarterback-led team that has averaged 12 points per game is just going to come out and win this game without issue.
It’s strange. Some are appreciative that they even get an opportunity to host a playoff game. It’s about as balanced a response could be.
4.) AC: How dangerous can this team be in the postseason with Lamar back? Their defense got a great boost with the Roquan Smith addition and Baltimore is an incredibly well-run organization, but their path to 10 wins thus far has been all over the map (last-second mega collapses, but also nice wins against playoff(ish) teams like New England, Cincinnati, Jets and Bucs). What do they need to do to make noise in the playoffs as Lamar knocks off potential rust?
KB: This team can be dangerous. Are they? They haven’t shown it half a season, and the first half only saw sporadic bursts of coming together.
The offense is struggling. The run game is their strong suit but each week questions are thrown toward offensive coordinator Greg Roman on usage of the run game or the usage of J.K. Dobbins and/or Gus Edwards.
Their wide receiver unit consists of three players they picked up off waivers or the free agent market with Demarcus Robinson, Sammy Watkins and DeSean Jackson. The defense is arguably a top three unit, but the offense is just simply not providing for this team.
5.) AC: Personally, I’d stay the hell away from betting on this game and its line. Cincinnati is coming off of a roller coaster of a week, while Baltimore might be down to starting their third-string quarterback and both teams clamoring for a potential opening round home playoff game via Week 18’s result. As of Friday afternoon, DraftKings has the Bengals at 9.5-point favorites at home. What do you make of the line and what do you see happening in this one?
KB: I think the line is right, honestly. The Ravens can’t put up points and the Bengals do so in droves. The offense will either be led by Huntley, who is actively dealing with tendonitis in his throwing shoulder and wrist, or third-string quarterback Anthony Brown. I don’t expect a Ravens victory and if I was forced to bet here, I’d favor Bengals -9.5.
Our thanks to Kyle Barber and Baltimore Beatdown for the chat. You can also go check out our conversation with them, too!