New season for Ravens begins Sunday vs. Bengals
— 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.