The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals are set to square off for the third time this season as the AFC Wild Card Playoffs come to a close on Sunday night. The two AFC North rivals split their earlier battles, with each team getting one win apiece.
In Week 5, the Bengals lost a close game to the Ravens 19-17. But the last matchup came just last Sunday, in the regular season finale, when the Bengals overmatched a Lamar Jackson-less Ravens squad down to their third quarterback.
While the white-hot Bengals leap into postseason play as winners of eight-straight, Baltimore is unsure on whether Jackson can return to help the Ravens’ offense take flight.
Nevertheless, the game must be played, and if we do get a Jackson vs Joe Burrow show, it will be one of the better Wild Card matchups of the weekend. If not, the Bengals could be in for a firework display as they advance to the Divisional Round. Down below, we dive into four bold predictions for the Ravens and Bengals on NFL Wild Card Weekend.
Ja’Marr Chase goes off for 200-yard game
There’s no question, Ja’Marr Chase is among the NFL”s best receivers. But we haven’t seen the same gamebreaking connection that we enjoyed from the former LSU star during his rookie season. Chase somehow had two 200-yard games in his first season but no such performances in 2022.
Part of that could be due to fracturing his hip, which cost the second-year pro five games. Because he missed so much time, Chase’s numbers weren’t nearly as impressive, but finishing with 1,046 yards and nine touchdowns shows he was still plenty effective.
Yet, as mentioned, Chase didn’t have those dominant games we’ve seen he’s capable of. His best day came back in Week 6, racking up 132 yards and two touchdowns. But we’ve seen him explode against Baltimore before, such as when he chipped in 201 yards in Week 7 of 2021. Only, Chase couldn’t even top 100 yards against the Ravens this past season, who boast the NFL’s third-best defense.
However, there are reasons for optimism heading into the latest Baltimore matchup, as if there’s an area that’s susceptible, it’s their 26th-ranked pass defense. The Ravens allowed three 300-yard passers from Week 1-8, but no one has been able to top 264 yards more than once. We’ll go out on a limb and say that changes with Chase coming to town at full-strength.
Lamar Jackson returns to peak form
Lamar Jackson’s season got off to a normal start, going off for a total of 437 yards and four touchdowns in Week 2, showing the former NFL MVP was back to the electric athlete we’ve come to enjoy. But his year ended on a sour note, missing the last five games of the regular season as he dealt with a knee injury.
There’s no guarantee Jackson will suddenly be able to suit up for the Wild Card matchup in Cincinnati, but being that it’s win or go home, there’s a strong sense that the dual-threat QB will give it a go.
While it’s hard to expect Jackson to be back at 100% after missing over a month of action, it’s not hard to envision the two-time Pro Bowl QB making a major impact on the game. Jackson’s Ravens averaged 25 points per game from Weeks 1-12 but just 12.5 points in the games that followed.
Simply put, if Jackson plays, expect a much different Baltimore offense, one that actually strikes fear into their opponent and can put up 30 points. Don’t be surprised if Jackson’s first game shows us what makes the pending free agent worth every penny as he looks to further establish his worth.
Cincinnati Bengals record four sacks
A year after ranking 12th in the NFL with 42 sacks, or 2.4 per game, the Bengals drastically regressed in 2022. Cincinnati had the fourth-fewest sacks with just 30 or an average of 1.7 per game.
But much of their same key contributors remain, with three of their top four performers from last year back in the lineup. Truthfully, the Bengals still have everything they need to repeat their swarming efforts we’ve seen in the past, it just hasn’t come together in one game thus far.
Despite ranking 29th in sacks, the Bengals are creating the 15th-most pressure this season, they’re just not completing the job. We could see that changing on Sunday.
There were three separate occasions where the Bengals racked up four sacks this season. Once against 37-year-old Joe Flacco, once against Mac Jones, and once against Ravens QB Anthony Brown. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see the Bengals maintain their momentum, going up the same linemen and emerging with a group of sacks once again vs Baltimore, even with Jackson back in the lineup.
Baltimore Ravens limit Bengals offense to 13 points
Despite both defenses ranking in the top ten of scoring, most would anticipate this game to feature plenty of points. Vegas also anticipates a defensive battle, setting the over/under at 43.5 points.
This matchup will either go one of two ways. Either Joe Burrow destroys the Ravens’ defense, taking advantage of a treasure trove of weapons, or the Baltimore front seven imposes their will on the Bengals’ offensive line.
Being that Baltimore tied for having the fifth-most sacks per game this season, it shouldn’t shock anyone if the likes of Justin Houston and Justin Madubuike wreak havoc on the Cincinnati protection scheme. If Burrow doesn’t have time to throw downfield, forcing the Bengals to try and run on the NFL’s third-best rush defense, it could be a long day at Paycor Stadium.