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Baltimore Ravens vs Cincinnati Bengals: 5 winners and losers from Wild Card clash

After a surprisingly close contest, the Cincinnati Bengals were able to walk away with a rubber-match win over the Baltimore Ravens on Wild Card Sunday, 24-17.

The Bengals entered their opening-round matchup with the Ravens as solid favorites, and it is pretty understandable why. Firstly, they were the AFC North Champions. One of the best teams in the conference all year long, and they soundly beat Baltimore in a season finale matchup only a week ago.

However, maybe the biggest reason why the Ravens were the underdog on Sunday night was that they were again without superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson. His absence played a major role in how this game played out and also helped to decide who we thought had nights to remember and evenings to forget.

Related: Joe Burrows plan is to remain with Cincinnati Bengals his entire career

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five winners and losers from the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens Wild Card clash.

Winner: Cincinnati Bengals defense

Cincinnati bengals, Baltimore ravens
Credit: USA Today Network

At a point in the fourth quarter, it seemed like the Bengals’ defense might land on this list as a loser. They allowed backup quarterback Tyler Huntley to make a notable impact on the game and the Ravens seemed on the brink of taking the lead at a pivotal moment late. However, they turned the narrative around in one failed 98-yard fumble return swoop.

Sam Hubbard’s highlight reel return blew open the game and put the Bengals out in front where they would eventually stay until the final seconds. The moment seemed to motivate them to make big plays in the remainder of the quarter and avoid what could have been a nightmare playoff loss at home.

It wasn’t pretty, but with the Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati offense having an off night, it was the difference between a win and a loss.

Loser: Tyler Huntley

Cincinnati bengals, Baltimore ravens
Credit: USA Today Network

Three-year veteran Tyler Huntley was solid in his first NFL playoff start. The undrafted talent having a lackluster showing against one of the elites of the conference was to be expected. However, he defied the odds and gave the Bengals a run for their money for three quarters.

However, when it mattered most, he looked very much like a backup quarterback against the weakness of the Cincinnati Bengals squad. He fumbled at the worst possible time and couldn’t make the plays necessary when the game was there to be taken. Huntley did do anything to change the narrative that he is nothing more than a rock-solid backup QB in the NFL.

Winner: Lamar Jackson

Cincinnati bengals, Baltimore ravens
Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Huntley’s disappointment was Lamar Jackson’s gain. The former league MVP wasn’t even on the field on Sunday but he still had a great night. The Baltimore Ravens’ Wild Card loss only furthered the fact that the 26-year-old has all the leverage in the upcoming negotiations for a massive long-term contract extension.

This franchise will quickly fall into obscurity without him, and there was no doubt many Baltimore fans watching at home were well aware that if Jackson was playing on Wild Card Weekend, the Ravens would have advanced to the next round.

Loser: Bengals offensive line

The Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line is in a rough place. It was already a group that wasn’t among the elites in the league, however, over the last few weeks their numbers have been dwindling quickly.

Tackle La’el Collins landed on injured reserve in December, guard Alex Cappa missed tonight’s playoff matchup, and during the game, they lost their other tackle, Jonah Williams. It’s no surprise that the Bengals’ offense struggled on Sunday.

If this unit can’t get healthy quickly, the Bengals have a ceiling on what they can do in the postseason with a defense that is already middle of the road.

Winner: John Harbaugh

Cincinnati bengals, Baltimore ravens
Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the Ravens are going home early in these playoffs, but head coach John Harbaugh deserves some credit for what he was able to do with this team despite being without their most important player for seven weeks.

The offense already had weaknesses with Jackson under center. However, without him, they struggled to score points. Plus, backup Tyler Huntley was even sidelined at one point, forcing the Ravens to resort to their third-string QB. Nevertheless, Harbaugh still led them to a 3-3 record in that time and stayed in the hunt for the division title.

Harbaugh had his team prepared, playing hard, and in it to the very end in their loss to Cincinnati. He proved late in the season and on Sunday why he is one of the better coaches in the NFL.