The Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) took care of business by beating the Baltimore Ravens (10-7) to secure a home playoff game to go along with their AFC North crown. (That still sounds weird.)
The game started out pretty close to what we expected, with the Bengals’ defense forcing multiple turnovers by a Ravens’ offense that was down to a third-string QB. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow missed on a couple of early deep shots, but that seemed to be a result of a little too much time off and the distractions of the previous week.
But then, in the second half, the Ravens refused to go down. So what did we learn?
The Wild Card game won’t be easy
The Ravens rested some of their offensive starters and still had a slight chance at winning late in the game. While Baltimore’s offense was atrocious, Cincinnati’s wasn’t all that much better in the second half. The fact of the matter is, the Ravens are a true AFC North team, and with that kind of physicality, they always have a chance of disrupting Joe Burrow and the offensive line, like they did in Week 18.
The Bengals have two games to play next Sunday
It’s funny to think that the Ravens didn’t even try their best to win yesterday—sitting running back J.K. Dobbins, guard Kevin Zeitler, and second-string QB Tyler Huntley—but kept their defensive starters out there.
For what purpose? Arguably to knock some of the Bengals’ stars out. Next Sunday will be a similar situation. The Ravens without Lamar Jackson don’t have a realistic chance of upsetting the Bengals. But they will get a second chance to ruin the Bengals’ postseason hopes by way of some dirty hits.
Roquan Smith after the play runs into Ja’Marr Chase looks like on purpose…Why? #RuleTheJungle pic.twitter.com/JDbDOBltUQ— GameOn513 (@gameonjmoney) January 8, 2023
Cincinnati will have to be extra aware of cheap shots from Baltimore defenders (and maybe offensive players too) in addition to trying to win the game. It’s almost like playing two games at once.
Jessie Bates is in postseason form
The free safety had one of his best games of the season along with an early interception, showing why he’s so valued in the Bengals’ locker room. Remember, last postseason, Bates had an interception or huge pass breakup in every single game.
Anthony Brown throws an interception to Jessie Bates. pic.twitter.com/r41kaq5ZMO— Arye Pulli (@AryePulliTSP) January 8, 2023
Trey Hendrickson is managing his wrist injury just fine
Despite playing only 18 snaps, the edge rusher finished with two sacks and a forced fumble. That’s all with a broken wrist that’s still healing. Expect a huge postseason from a 28-year-old who still seems to be getting better.
A three-man pass rush against a really good offensive line, with Trey Hendrickson going up against the Ravens best offensive lineman.— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) January 8, 2023
Trey Hendrickson gets another win. https://t.co/5T7Qyg4wW6
The MNF game affected the Bengals more than the Bills
The Bengals were clearly off their game. Thankfully, Damar Hamlin seems to be doing well now, so it may have been due to frustration from the NFL changing the rulebook and doing Cincinnati no favors. The insanely-accurate Joe Burrow was uncharacteristically off on some passes he makes in his sleep, including what would have been a deep touchdown to Tee Higgins (though he connected with Ja’Marr Chase for a score on the next play).
GREAT BURROW MOMENT here after throwing the TD to Chase, he takes a deep breath and lays his head on Tee Higgins shoulder #Bengals #WhoDey pic.twitter.com/TFXBS3e6Jf— Mark Slaughter (@MarkVSlaughter) January 9, 2023
The Buffalo Bills (13-3), meanwhile, played their normal game against the New England Patriots and had a number of electric plays, including two long kick returns, ending up with 35 total points. The Bills, it should be remembered, will get to play the Kansas City Chiefs (14-3) on a neutral field should the two meet in the AFC Championship game despite Buffalo having a worse record (and falling behind against Cincinnati before they told the Bengals they couldn’t go on).
For more, check out our recap of Week 18 and our preview of the Wild Card game against the Ravens:
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