The Ravens will get another crack at the Bengals in the playoffs, and they’re embracing it.
Baltimore will visit Cincinnati on Wild Card weekend, Sunday night at 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC). The Ravens-Bengals AFC North rematch got top billing on Sunday Night Football.
Cincinnati’s 27-16 victory over the Ravens (10-7) locked Baltimore into the No. 6 seed. Cincinnati (11-5) is the No. 3 seed and will host Baltimore again at Paycor Stadium, setting up an interesting postseason rematch between AFC North rivals. The teams split their regular season matchups, with each team winning at home.
When they meet again on Wild-Card Weekend, the stakes will be much higher, with the winner advancing and the loser going home. Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey said he can’t wait.
“It’s kind of exciting,” Humphrey said. “We just had a scrimmage.
“They’re pretty familiar with us. It’s just going to be who’s the better team. When you play three times the better team usually shows.”
The Ravens hope Lamar Jackson (knee) will be healthy enough play in the playoffs after missing the final five games of the regular season. Jackson was in the lineup when the Ravens defeated the Bengals, 19-17, in Week 5, but regardless of who plays quarterback, Baltimore is not conceding anything.
“Of course if Lamar, if he’s able to go that gives us the best chance to win,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “I’m going to be rooting for that and hoping that happens. At the same time, it’s football. We have confidence in ourselves. We’re going to go out there, with whoever we put out there, and give it our best shot.”
The Bengals’ victory on Sunday did not vault them into the No. 2 seed, because the Bills (14-3) maintained the No. 2 seed by defeating the Patriots. In the other AFC Wild-Card matchups, the Bills will host the Dolphins, who locked up the AFC’s final playoff spot with a win over the Jets. The fourth-seeded Jaguars will host the fifth-seeded Chargers, while the Chiefs will get a first-round bye.
Both teams had already locked up a playoff spot before Sunday’s kickoff, but the intensity level was high, and it will be higher during the playoffs. The Ravens rested some starters in Week 18, including tight end Mark Andrews, running back J.K. Dobbins and right guard Kevin Zeitler. But there will be no holding back in the playoffs, when all the healthy starters will play, and there will be no holding back regarding each team’s gameplan and strategy.
Even in this game there was hard-hitting and trash-talking throughout, and Campbell was not surprised. Many people expected the Bengals and Ravens to battle for the AFC North crown before the season began, and that’s exactly what happened. Cincinnati won its second straight division title, but know the Ravens want to go through Cincinnati on their way to a bigger prize.
“It’s playoff football,” Campbell said. “Against a divisional opponent, this is kind of like what it will be next week. I respect them a lot, those guys are talented as can be, play with a lot of heart. Chippiness is part of the game. They want it just as bad as we do. It’s going to come down to who plays the best ball.”
This was the first Ravens-Bengals game for inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who was all over the field with a game-high 16 tackles. Smith has embraced the rivalries within the AFC North since being acquired in a midseason trade, and he likes the idea of starting the playoffs against a divisional opponent.
“I’m looking forward to next week,” Smith said. “Those guys know, when we come back next week, we be there. I’m excited and I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for us to show the world exactly what we’re going to do.”