New sea­son for Ravens be­gins Sun­day vs. Ben­gals

Cecil Whig - - & - By SEAN GRO­GAN


— The Bal­ti­more Ravens view their re­main­ing six games as a brand new sea­son.

That sea­son be­gins Sun­day, when Bal­ti­more hosts the AFC North ri­val Cincin­nati Ben­gals. With the Ravens and Pitts­burgh Steel­ers tied atop the di­vi­sion with 5-5 records, all that mat­ters now is how both teams per­form over the fi­nal six weeks.

Two of Bal­ti­more’s re­main­ing six games will be against the Ben­gals, a team the Ravens have lost to in five straight tries. Their last win over Cincin­nati came in 2013.

“These guys have played us well. We haven’t beaten them in a long time. It’s def­i­nitely go­ing to be a tough game,” quar­ter­back Joe Flacco said Wed­nes­day. “The last cou­ple years, we’ve just got­ten down on them early and let them play with the lead. I re­mem­ber a cou­ple years ago, we were pretty much in two-minute of­fense the en­tire sec­ond half. These games are all tough … They’ve been a good de­fense – a tal­ented de­fense, well coached. When you look at the film this year, they’re still play­ing good. The teams that have beat them have hit big plays on them. We prob­a­bly haven’t been able to do that as much as we’d like, un­til the end of games when we’ve been in des­per­a­tion mode.”

The Ben­gals will limp into Sun­day’s 1 p.m. showdown at M&T Bank Stadium. Star wide re­ceiver A.J. Green suf­fered a ham­string in­jury dur­ing Cincin­nati’s loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sun­day and run­ning back Gio­vani Bernard tore his ACL in the same game.


“I wish he was play­ing be­cause I love com­pet­ing against the best. I think he’s an amaz­ing player and an even bet­ter per­son,” safety Eric Wed­dle said of Green. “They’re go­ing to run what they run, it comes down to us mak­ing plays, be­ing in po­si­tion, com­mu­ni­cat­ing and do­ing our jobs, whether he’s out there or not.”

The loss to Buffalo leaves the Ben­gals at 3-6-1. An­other loss Sun­day could all but knock them out out of the play­off race. Cincin­nati hasn’t missed the post­sea­son since 2011. Elim­i­nat­ing the Ben­gals from con­tention could prove ben­e­fi­cial for the Ravens.

Both Bal­ti­more and Pitts­burgh likely need to win the AFC North to earn a play­off spot. At 5-5, nei­ther team is a fron­trun­ner for one of two AFC Wild Card spots.

The Steel­ers cer­tainly have an eas­ier sched­ule down the stretch, but the teams will meet one more time this sea­son – in Pitts­burgh on Christ­mas Day. As un­suc­cess­ful as the Ravens have been against the Ben­gals re­cently, they’ve tri­umphed an equal amount over the Steel­ers. Bal­ti­more has won four straight games and six of the last eight against its archri­val, so for now, the con­cern is fig­ur­ing a way to beat its sec­ondary ad­ver­sary.

“We have a six-game sea­son. We’re first in our di­vi­sion, but we can eas­ily be out if we don’t come out with a win,” Wed­dle said. “Mainly we just want to play good foot­ball, com­pli­men­tary foot­ball, win­ning foot­ball in all three phases and play to­gether. If we can do that, we’ll have a real good shot.”

Fol­low Sean Gro­gan on Twit­ter: @Sean_Ce­cilWhig


Bal­ti­more Ravens quar­ter­back Joe Flacco is pres­sured by Cincin­nati Ben­gals’ Car­los Dun­lap dur­ing the fourth quar­ter in a game last sea­son.

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