Playoffs On Line For Bengals Against Baltimore Ravens
A spirited sellout crowd could help propel the Cincinnati Bengals into the playoffs when they host the Baltimore Ravens in a key AFC North matchup on Sunday. The Bengals (9-6) will be playing in front of 65,535 fans for just the second time in 12 games after offering season ticket holders a buy-one, get-one-free promotion to ensure they will have a home-field advantage – along with lifting the local TV blackout – in their biggest game of the year.
Cincinnati had just 41,273 fans in attendance at Paul Brown Stadium for a 23-16 victory against Arizona last Saturday and could definitely use the extra boost against the Ravens (11-4), who also have a lot to play for in Week 17. Baltimore needs a win over the Bengals or a Pittsburgh loss at Cleveland to capture the division title. Both games kick off at 4:15 p.m. (ET) and will be televised on CBS.
The Ravens hold a tiebreaker advantage over the Steelers because they swept the regular-season series, and they would like to avoid a trip to Heinz Field in the postseason after losing playoff games there two of the past three years. Baltimore opened as a 3-point road favorite at Cincinnati according to the Don Best odds screen and has seen early betting action on the home team, moving the line down to -1½ at some sportsbooks with the total going down from 39 to 38.
The Bengals have failed to cover the spread in three of their last four home games, but they beat the 4½-point line against the Cardinals last week in a battle between two teams trying to make the playoffs. Arizona scored 16 points in the fourth quarter but could not overcome a 23-0 deficit, as wide receiver Early Doucet tripped at the goal line on a fourth-down play that could have resulted in the game-tying touchdown if he had made the catch.
Cincinnati built the big lead behind two more touchdown passes from quarterback Andy Dalton, who became just the fourth rookie to throw for 20 scores in a season. Dalton’s top target, fellow rookie A.J. Green (63 catches, 1,031 yards), was named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad earlier this week and could get some more looks with wide receiver Andre Caldwell going on injured reserve with a sports hernia.
The Ravens won the earlier meeting with the Bengals 31-24 in Week 11 despite playing without middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who had suited up in the previous 57 games before sitting out with a toe injury. That victory started a run of five wins in six games, although they have failed to cover each of their past three.
The key for Baltimore offensively has been running back Ray Rice, who has seen his team go 7-0 when he carries the ball at least 20 times. In four losses, Rice carried the ball a combined 36 times with no rushing touchdowns. He has scored 13 touchdowns overall this season.
Cincinnati is 4-0-1 against the spread in the past five meetings with the Ravens, and the ‘under’ is 4-1 in those games. However, the ‘over’ is 9-2 in the last 11 games for the Bengals against AFC opponents and 6-2 in Baltimore’s past eight road games.
The weather forecast for Cincinnati on Sunday calls for a 40 percent chance of rain showers and a high temperature of 50.