Here it is ladies and gentleman; the final week of the 2017 NFL regular season is upon us. Man did this season go by fast or what? This year has been a roller coaster ride of emotions for the Baltimore Ravens and their fans. Sporting a 3-4 record heading into the bye week, this season looked like a wash to most. Another underachieving season for a team that looked to have all the pieces. Seven weeks later, the Ravens have a chance to clinch a playoff birth with a win today against the Cincinnati Bengals. Since the bye week the Ravens have gone 5-1, the lone loss coming in the final minutes against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Ravens should come out of today’s game with the AFC’s fifth seed and begin preparing for the Kansas City Chiefs. But the Bengals would love nothing more than to play spoiler and knock their AFC North rival out of the postseason or at least make it to where the Ravens need some help. Baltimore can not overlook this tough Bengals team and lay a huge egg in the most important game of the season. Following these keys to the game will lead the Ravens to their first playoff birth since 2014.
Lean on the Run Game
With an expected game-time temperature of twenty-one degrees, the passing game for the Ravens may be leaned on a little less than usual. Combine the weather and the fact that the Bengals are the NFL’s second worst run defense, Ravens’ backs Alex Collins and Buck Allen could be in for huge games. Cincinnati surrenders just under 130 yards per game to the opposing teams rushing attacks. In their past two games, the Ravens have exactly 200 yards on sixty-three attempts. Leaning heavily on that rushing attack again should provide an opportunity for success in the passing game as it has in almost the entire second half of the season. Alex Collins did have a fumble last week, but luckily the Ravens recovered. Granted the conditions were far from ideal last week, Collins will need to protect the ball as if his life depends on it, in which his teams playoff hopes do. This run game is much improved from previous years, it is time to show that in the most dominating way, as the Ravens stare the postseason in its eyes.
Contain AJ Green
Rookie Marlon Humphrey has proven that he can go toe-to-toe against some of the top receivers in the league, facing Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, and TY Hilton in the past three games. Now last week Humphrey did struggle against Hilton, but again the conditions were as bad as they could have been. AJ Green is a game changer as he has shown against the Ravens in previous years. Baltimore can not allow a reckless Bengals offense run through one of the best receivers in the league. The entirety of the Ravens secondary will need to play a part in holding Green down if they want to control this game as they should. Corner back Brandon Carr will need to play his best game of the season, as he has struggled for most of the second half of the year without Jimmy Smith on the opposite side. The pass rush will also need to play a part in stopping Green as putting pressure on Dalton will elevate the level of success this secondary could have. In what possibly could be his final game as a Raven, linebacker Terrell Suggs could be in store for a monster game, making life miserable for Dalton and this Bengals offense. Containing Green will make this game much simpler in terms of the Ravens coming out victorious.
January Joe Hangs Around
Joe Flacco, Joe “Cool”, or my favorite “Janaury” Joe; whatever you call him it can not be denied that Flacco turns into a different quarterback this time of year. This season has been no exception as in his last four games, Joe has thrown seven touchdowns to one interception. Flacco has a quarterback rating of just over ninety-eight which ranks eighth in the NFL over that span. Many players and analysts around the league have brought up “January” Joe including Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis as well as the heart and soul of this Ravens team, Terrell Suggs. Another showing like those previous four games, in todays matchup will give Joe and the Ravens a great chance in coming out victorious and clinching that fifth spot in the AFC. If that can happen every Ravens fan and every other fan of any of the five other playoff teams, even if they do not want to admit it, knows what Flacco can do in the playoffs. With a 10-5 career playoff record anything can happen if you give this team and Joe the opportunity.
And just incase you needed a little extra motivation and pumping up for todays game, here you go
Win and In. pic.twitter.com/iMfnF70y0J
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 31, 2017
WHY NOT US?