Bengals-Ravens Will Be Survival Of The Fittest

Nov 27, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) blocks Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) blocks Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports /

The Bengals finale will shed light on a few things. Week 17 brings a close to a disappointing season but sets the tone for 2017.

The Bengals season finale is almost like an episode of The Walking Dead. With so many injuries, it would be tempting to just pack it in. But, both the Ravens and Bengals are coming off close, heartbreaking losses on the road. It’s not a playoff tune-up for either team. So, risking further injuries to banged up starters won’t be the issue. What will be an issue is who can survive Week 17.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is coming into Paul Brown Stadium with guns blazing. Baltimore has every intention to win and will not be resting the starters. Harbaugh is not going to back down because of a few injuries. Ending the season above .500 is a positive for any team. 

"“I’m always worried about injuries. To me, you just can’t be thinking that way. You’re going to play a game and you want to play really well. It’s just not who we are to run scared, it’s just not. That’s not what we’re going to do.”"

With the rivalry getting more heated each year, the Bengals will probably have a similar mindset. Many fans are just hoping the Bengals play competitively and lose. Getting a better draft position is what most faithful are thinking about. But, at the risk of sounding like Marvin Lewis, there’s still football to be played. That means Cincinnati will have to match the Ravens’ intensity with the bodies they have available. 

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The Motivation

Ending the year at 6-9-1 is much better than 5-10-1. Lewis and the Bengals haven’t endured a double-digit failure since the 4-12 mark of 2010. Players that take pride in what they do will embrace the challenge, dig deep and find a way to win.

The numbers inside the division count for something too. Pittsburgh has already swept the Bengals. Losing to Baltimore again won’t look good on Lewis’ resume. A loss would put Cincinnati at 2-4 for the year, with both wins coming against the hapless Browns. For a team that just won the AFC North in 2015, that scenario doesn’t fit the bill.

Playing a complete game would be a huge plus for the Bengals. In every game, either the defense or offense couldn’t put 60 minutes of football together. Week 17 will be an opportunity to show fans and analysts what could have been in 2016.

Alex Erickson is trying to capture the AFC kick return title. Special teams should get hyped about that.

The Cast Of Characters

There’s no doubt about it. The Bengals are a banged up group of survivors. Honestly, the year could have been much worse. Just think Cleveland Browns worse.  The Ravens matchup will be a challenge but it can be done.

It would be refreshing to see A.J. Green play and get the yards needed to reach 1,000 yards for the season. But, don’t hold your breath. Green will miss out on being linked with Randy Moss but it doesn’t matter. He’s too valuable to risk a career-ending injury. Brandon LaFell, Cody Core and Tyler Boyd will have to channel their energy and help Andy Dalton have a career day. Unfortunately, Tyler Eifert is definitely out, after having back surgery.

Jeremy Hill will probably ride the sideline as well. With Hill nursing a knee injury, Rex Burkhead should see a significant jump in his snaps. Since Giovani Bernard has been out, Rex has been grinding out 4.5 yards per carry. That’s two yards more than Hill’s average. Let the man play.

Next: Should This Be His Last Chance?

It would be easy for the Bengals to just lay down and look towards next year. But, there’s much more at stake. Week 17 will be a peek into 2017’s training camp. The youngsters will get a chance to shine and familiar faces will have to step up.

A win over the Ravens is possible. But, injuries will definitely play a role in who survives.