The Ravens can book their playoff tickets to Kansas City with a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular season finale.
However, the Ravens will need to play much better than they did Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts. The Bengals have several more playmakers on both sides of the ball and would like nothing more than to knock their AFC North rivals out of the postseason.
The Ravens, though, will not be taking the Bengals lightly. Baltimore shut out Cincinnati in the regular-season opener, but holds just a 22-21 edge all-time.
“We’ve got to make sure we have everyone focused,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “You definitely don’t look past the Bengals. You always know that’s a tough game, and we’ve got to make sure we start fast.”
While the Ravens still have the league’s ninth-ranked overall defense, they have given up some big plays over the past few games. That will need to be corrected in the short-term.
The Colts had the league’s 30th-ranked pass defense, but quarterback Jacoby Brissett found holes in Baltimore’s secondary. He completed 16 of 33 pass attempts for 215 yards with a touchdown. T.Y. Hilton created matchup problems for much of the game and finished with six receptions for 100 yards. Baltimore has struggled to cover tight ends much of the season.
A loss to the Bengals could potentially dash Baltimore’s playoff hopes for the third straight season.
“Well, we have to handle our business,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We all have a job to do. We just have to put together one good game. One good game, and we are in [the playoffs]. If we win, we are in. Everybody knows that second season, we become a different team; a special team.”
The Ravens have managed to get their season on track after dealing with some early struggles. When Baltimore lost four of five games and fell to 3-4, another disappointing year appeared imminent. However, the Ravens made the necessary adjustments and played their best football over the final stretch of the season.
Over the past month, the Ravens have averaged 33 points per game. Baltimore has won five of its past six games and are on target to earn the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs.
Quarterback Joe Flacco has played a major role in that resurgence. He got off to a slow to the season after missing all of training camp with an injured back.
Flacco has appeared healthier and thrown for seven touchdowns and just one interception over the past five games. He is feeling confident about his team’s potential playoff run. Flacco is also at his best in the postseason and the Ravens could be the team no one wants to play.
“Our goal is to get to playoffs, and once you get to those games, you can’t rely on winning by 20 or 30 points,” Flacco said. “You have to be able to rely on playing 60 minutes, and being able to have the nerve and everything else that goes along with that. Winning the game on the last drive; stopping the team on the last drive. A lot of things go into that. So, the fact that we’ve had to deal with this is a positive.”