Usually, I would have a full preview of the game, but this week has been different. The Bill’s safety Damar Hamlin’s injury affected players, coaches, and fans. It was one thing to witness on T.V., but fans like me who witnessed it live at the stadium were altogether affected. Bengal and Bills fans came together in the stands praying and hoping for the best as we watched the live-saving measure performed on the field.
The great news is that Damar Hamlin is making a recovery, even speaking to his teammates this week on Facetime. Thanks to the quick response from the trainers, medical staff, and everyone who saved his life.
Knowing Damar is doing better, the shift turned to what to do about the playoffs, seeds, and how to make things fair. Well, the NFL met, and decisions were made. Although the decision could have been better for the Bengals organization, the show must go on.
Bengal’s head coach Zac Taylor expressed his feeling towards the decision.
“As far as I’m concerned, we just want the rules to be followed,” Taylor said Friday via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “When a game is canceled, you just turn to winning percentage to clarify everything, so we don’t have to make up rules. There’s several instances this season when a club is fined, or people in our building are fined, and we’re being told, ‘Follow the rules. It’s black and white. It’s in the rulebook.’ So now when we point out the rules, and you’re told we’re going to change that, I don’t want to hear about fair and equitable when that’s the case.”
So be it; what is done is done, and now you have to focus on the only thing you can control, which is preparing to play the Ravens.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference
Based on the NFL’s criteria, the Bengals have already won the AFC North. A Bengals win against the Ravens could improve their seed, but they would need some help from the Patriots to upset the Bills. The Ravens have something to play for as well. If the Ravens win the game, there will be a coin flip to decide who hosts the wildcard game between the two if that match were to happen.
Baltimore’s starting quarterback Lamar Jackson has been sidelined with a knee injury and has not practiced leaving the starting quarterback job to Tyler Huntley. Huntley has also been dealing with minor shoulder and wrist injuries which has limited him in practice.
Barring any additional setbacks, Huntley will likely start for the Ravens, but if he can not go, third-string quarterback Anthony Brown will make his first career start. This would undoubtedly be an advantage for a hungry Bengal defense looking to make a statement.
With so much on the line, I am sure the Bengal’s defense will be ready to play this game, especially if the Ravens have a third-string quarterback running plays. Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard sat out against the Bills but has practiced again this week with the team. I am hoping he should be ready to go this week.
If Hubbard can play and Trey Hendrickson is on the other side, this would be ideal for keeping the pressure on a backup quarterback. Obtaining sacks and turnovers is the name of the game.
The Ravens will want to run the ball and have been successful at it. They are the third-best rushing offense in the league. Raven’s running back, J.K. Dobbins, had just returned from injury the first time they played, gaining 44 yards on eight carries. He must be stopped before he gets going.
The other Ravens running back, Gus Edwards, is also a weapon. Dobbins and Edwards average 5.2 yards a carry.
The great news is that the Bengal’s massive nose tackle D.J. Reader did not play the first time the Bengals played the Ravens. Reader will be up against Ravens rookie center Tyler Linderbaum who has played solid football but struggles against the better tackles like Reader. Reader will be a difference maker in this game mark my words.
The Raven’s tight end Mark Andrews knows how to wreck a game if you let him. He has made big catches on the Bengals in the past so containing him to some degree is a must. If the Bengals can bring the pressure up front, then the likelihood of him making an impact is less.
The Bengals secondary is primarily healthy and should be able to stay up with Raven’s receivers Demarcus Robinson, Sammy Watkins, and DeSean Jackson.
The Bengals only took five plays to score on the Bills. Bengal’s quarterback has found his rhythm and has been in touch with his receivers. The Raven’s secondary is pretty good, led by cornerback Marlon Humphrey. Their other cornerback Marcus Peters was able to practice in a limited capacity this week. The Bengal’s receiving trio of Ja’Marr Chass, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd are all healthy and ready to go. Especially Higgins, who had an emotional last week but seemed to rebound and said he is prepared to go.
This week, the Bengals running back Joe Mixon took to Twitter about how the NFL ruled and its effect on the Bengals. “So we not following the rules no more,” Mixon wrote on Twitter with a screenshot from the NFL rule book on its policy for canceled games. If this indicates how everyone else feels inside the locker room, the Ravens are in for a game.
With the game’s cancellation last week, we did not get a good indication of how the Bengals’ right tackle, Hakeem Adeniji, would hold up against the competition. It looks like Raven’s top pass rusher Calais Campbell may be back in the line-up, which will be a keep matchup to watch. Adeniji should get some help if needed, but the Bengal’s coaching staff has confidence in Adeniji since they started him against the Bills and didn’t even call up backup Isaiah Prince off the practice squad.
Bengals team captain and center Ted Karras also voiced his opinions. “It’s not a true division championship until you have home field locked up. We’re going out there Sunday to settle it.”
Nothing in the NFL is a given, especially AFC North divisional games. However, the Bengals are fired up; their fans are fired up, and it is being played in the Jungle. The Stripes will come out to play in this heated matchup regardless of who is quarterbacking for the Ravens.
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