The Cincinnati Bengals are closing up their second consecutive disappointing season, as they face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17. Season-ending contests between the two clubs have been frequent in recent years, with at least one team sniffing the postseason.
This year, it’s the Ravens looking for January success, while the Bengals are looking to rebuild in 2018. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great individual matchups this week, though. Here are the top-five to watch in the 2017 season finale.
Left tackle Clint Boling versus linebacker Terrell Suggs
Once upon a time, Suggs had a string of ineffective games against the Bengals when Andrew Whitworth manned the left tackle position. Things have massively changed since “Big Whit” left for Los Angeles, and the veteran rusher had a big game in the season opener against Cincinnati.
Suggs had two sacks and a forced fumble while going up against Cedric Ogbuehi, who is on the injury report once again this week. If Ogbuehi can’t go, it looks like Boling will get his second NFL start at left tackle against the future Hall of Fame Raven. Boling had a rough week 16 at left tackle against the Lions, as Ezekiel Ansah had three sacks on him and the Bengals’ offense.
Running back Giovani Bernard versus linebacker C.J. Mosley
Bernard has been on a tear since Jeremy Hill landed on Injured Reserve and with Joe Mixon battling a myriad of issues over the past month. Since the Week 13 matchup against the Steelers, Bernard has 285 of his 406 rushing yards, two touchdowns and 152 receiving yards.
He, along with A.J. Green will be two of the top weapons in the passing attack against the ferocious Baltimore defense, led by Mosley. There is also the chance that Mosley blitzes and Bernard will need to once again be stout in pass blocking, as he’s been recently.
Edge rusher Carl Lawson versus Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley
There was a bit of a shock in 2016 when the Ravens took Stanley over Laremy Tunsil, but most understood the decision when a dubious pre-draft picture of Tunsil surfaced. Still, Stanley has been solid on the left side of the line for the Ravens, starting 14 games this year.
Lawson should be in serious consideration for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, with numerous pressures and a rookie-leading 8.5 sacks. Sunday’s season finale will feature two top young talents at their respective positions.
Wide receiver A.J. Green versus cornerback Marlon Humphrey:
Earlier this year, Green had a major blowup against another rookie corner in the Jaguars’ Jalen Ramsey. He faces another in the physical, former Crimson Tide defender, Humphrey.
Green made his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl and has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in six of those years, but there have been some issues with drops in 2017. Humphrey has only started four games this year, but he is currently atop the Ravens’ depth chart at left corner and will be tasked at covering Green at times.
Offensive linemen Christian Westerman and Russell Bodine versus defensive tackle Brandon Williams
Aside from struggling throughout most of the year, the Bengals’ offensive line has also suffered numerous injuries. Westerman made his first NFL start at left guard last week and fared well. It’s also a big week for Bodine, who is working to get his next contract somewhere.
Williams is a force who usually lines up right over the center, and he has dominated Bodine before, but he also slides over to face guards. Cincinnati’s line has traditionally struggled against varying 3-4 looks, so Westerman and Bodine will be of paramount importance this week.