Does Bengals-Ravens Still Have Any Meaning?
The Bengals and Ravens aren’t playing for postseason berths or the AFC North crown. What could inspire them to battle on Sunday?
Week 17 wasn’t supposed to be this way. The bill of sale given to the city of Cincinnati by Marvin Lewis and the Bengals was filled with promise and hope. Instead, fans will be watching a meaningless battle between two teams headed nowhere for the year. After losing a down-to-the-wire battle with Pittsburgh, the Ravens are out of the postseason. The Bengals collected their couch tickets against the same team. Is there anything to look forward to?
Bengals faithful saw a year that started out shaky get even worse. Ravens fans were teased with a start that suddenly had them thinking AFC North crown and comeback of the year. Sunday’s afternoon clash at Paul Brown Stadium could show what both franchises are made of. Playing for nothing can bring out the true anger and determination in players and coaches. Wait…do Bengals coaches get angry?
The First Encounter
Earlier in the year, Baltimore seemingly avenged their streak of losses against the Bengals. Week 12 was a close game that should have been won by the beloved Bengals. But, without A.J. Green ( codename: The Ravens Killer), Cincinnati’s offense looked one-dimensional and predictable. Tyler Eifert and Tyler Boyd (codename: The Double Boyds) had a decent game against the Ravens D.
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Andy Dalton had respectable numbers but couldn’t rally the troops when necessary. Truthfully, Dalton was saddled with the play calling of Ken Zampese. There hasn’t been the chemistry that analysts thought would surface between the two. Maybe that’s something that could be motivation. If Zampese and Dalton can develop a Vulcan Mind Meld, the finale could be something to behold. But, that isn’t going to happen.
What fans will see is a Bengals’ O-line that is struggling to find itself. With the musical chairs number still intact, Dalton will be running for his life again. If not, he’ll get sacked at the worst possible time.
Evening the season series would be a good thing to see and a kickoff to a productive offseason. But, getting that wish granted would be akin to the disappointment of Christmas Eve in Houston.
Oh wait…revenge for the wacky holding play at the end of the game. That could do it.
Get A Good Look At The Youngsters
This is the time to see what the toys can do. Nick Vigil played well in the nickel package when things got shifted in Vontaze Burfict’s absence. Cody Core saw action on 62% of the snaps and looked sharp. With Green out, Dalton has been forced to develop chemistry with the other burners.
The biggest mystery of the year has to be Cedric Ogbuehi. Chances are, he’ll make his second start at left tackle and get some more on-the-job training. He feels that outside the two sacks he surrendered against the Texans he played a good game.
“They gave us different looks. Besides a few dumb plays, I thought we handled it well.”
Rex Burkhead is not a youngster but he needs to get more snaps. The Bengals running game has been almost invisible at times. One can only imagine what may have transpired if Zampese would have had a more balanced attack. Burkhead is a coordinator’s dream. He’s speedy, has good vision and decent hands coming out of the backfield. The problem? He doesn’t get much use. Giving him a few more carries against the Ravens couldn’t hurt…the season is over.
The Pride Factor
Lewis’ team didn’t give up on Christmas Eve but they didn’t come out with guns blazing either. In the past three weeks, the Bengals have been a team of one-half. After coming out with fire they fizzle. When they come out cold, they try to heat it up. The season finale will be a test of Marvin Lewis’ ability to still rally the troops. There are tons of injuries, no playoffs to spur them on, and there’s definitely no playing for home field advantage.
So, does Bengals-Ravens have any meaning? Depends on what the fans want. If you’re a homer, you’re looking for that W. A realist? Well. it’s all about that coveted draft pick. Either way, there’s enough meaning to go around.