Here’s why game in Cincy is most important roadtrip in Ravens’ history

December 27, 2011 | Nestor Aparicio

Here’s why game in Cincy is most important roadtrip in Ravens’ history

It’s all come down to this for the Jekyll and Hyde Baltimore Ravens of 2011 – win on the first day of 2012 in Cincinnati or have the season quickly turn into a month-long road journey that has claimed many wildcard victims along the way in the NFL over the years.

We all know the stakes – a Ravens win over the Bengals would earn Baltimore a much-needed two weeks of rest, relaxation and home-cooking while four other AFC teams (including the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers) have to pack, play and win on the first weekend of 2012 with nothing but airplanes and hotels in their futures.

An unthinkable loss in Cincy – like the ones the Ravens have suffered four times this season against just three road wins – and the local heroes will be stuck on a week-to-week road journey that almost certainly would destroy their Super Bowl chances in Indianapolis for early February.

After all, the theory goes, if you can’t beat the Bengals in Cincinnati where they can’t even sell their own pseudo-playoff tickets, how could the Ravens go to Denver or Oakland and then Pittsburgh and New England and win three straight NFL games on the road in January?

So it all comes down to Cincinnati on Sunday for the Ravens to have any odds we’d all like for them to win the Super Bowl.

The most important roadtrip in Baltimore Ravens’ history?

Sure, I think we can make that case, especially given the stakes of the bye and the home-field advantage that the Ravens can execute with a victory over upstart quarterback Andy Dalton and the Bengals.

Several key injuries have made this game in Cincy look even more formidable, considering the limps and gimps on both sides of the football for the Ravens. Losing David Reed for the remainder of the season will put a crimp into the special teams efforts moving forward but the Ravens’ entire squad has looked more like an infirmary the past few weeks with a series of injuries affecting the roster.

The most serious this week will be the chest contusion suffered by Marshal Yanda, who is their most effective offensive lineman and a key cog in the Ravens’ desire to run the ball with Ray Rice and Ricky Williams. Coach John Harbaugh was unusually direct in his statements regarding the situation with Yanda but the Ravens will plug in Andre Gurode if necessary and attempt to win in Cincinnati.

As the axiom in the game goes “No one is healthy at this time of the season” but with the Ravens it’s even more severe because of how these untimely losses will affect the offense, which has been inconsistent even when all its parts have been on the field.

Just when it appears Lee Evans gets healthy, the Ravens lose Anquan Boldin.

Just when Ray Lewis gets back on the field, the Ravens lose Dannell Ellerbe.

Just when Lardarius Webb gets back onto the field in one piece, the Ravens lose Cary Williams with a concussion.

And let’s not get started on the Billy Cundiff injury and the tough decisions Harbaugh and the coaching staff will have making a decision on who will be kicking the most important three-pointers of the season for the franchise — the now questionable Cundiff or former Bengals kicker Shayne Graham, who looked strong vs. Cleveland last Saturday.

But excuses and injuries will fall on deaf ears with the Baltimore Ravens’ fan base if the Ravens come back from Cincinnati late Sunday night staring at a three-week roadtrip beginning somewhere West – Oakland or Denver – and they might even have to play that game in just five days given the wildcard Saturday starts.

And while some teams – including last year’s version of the Green Bay Packers – could survive that kind of grind and win a Super Bowl title, it would take someone far more gullible than me to think that a team that struggled to a 3-5 road finish this year and coming off a loss in Cincinnati would be considered a real threat to run the table with three straight road victories going through the likes of Pittsburgh and New England in back-to-back weeks.

And while the clock ticks on the football careers of the likes of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Matt Birk – did anyone say last and best chance for a championship in Baltimore? – it’s easy for me to write that this game in Cincinnati is indeed the most important roadtrip in Ravens’ history.

The Ravens have never played a bigger regular season game or one with higher stakes than this New Year’s Day game of poker in Cincinnati.

Undefeated at home in a perfect 8-0 run this season, the Ravens are now going to finally have to show that they have the heart of a champion in southern Ohio on Sunday.

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12 Comments For This Post

  1. wade Says:

    Nestor,I agree totally.With this schedule we had i said this is the year.Normally we kill on the road.Not this year,with unspeakable losses to Jacksonville,Seattle,they killed themselves.Iknew San Diego was gonna be hard and throw in Tennessee.No way in hell we should have 4 losses.They better play up to potential and win handily in Cinci or we are done.What`s up with Joe?Love him to death but he was way off Sunday.He used to throw it with authority,now he tries to float it in.That pass to Evans should have been easy 7.Just way under potential this year.

  2. PghSteve Says:

    Looks like the Browns might have an effect on the AFC North race even without winning any games in the division. The injuries to Roethlisberger and Pouncey in the Thursday night Browns-Steelers game a few weeks ago likely had an effect on the Steelers’ game in San Fran. And the injuries to Yonda, et. al., in last Sunday’s Ravens-Browns game could affect the outcome at Cincy for the Ravens. As a Steelers fan, I am certainly not going to shed any tears over the Ravens’ injuries. Would be better if Flacco or Rice were injured (nothing major, maybe just a bad hangnail that needs until January 2nd to heal).

    Anyway, here’s to hoping to see the Ravens at Heinz Field the 3rd weekend in January, or at least at M&T the same weekend.

  3. Matt Says:

    Saw this coming half-way through the season. I’ve made the trip to Cinncy three years in a row, last two being losses where the Bengals thoroughly outplayed the Ravens both times, more physical, more consistent on offense, clutch plays late…now the Ravens need to bring home a “W” in Paul Brown or else this may be remembered not as the season where the Ravens went undefeated at home but as the season where they couldn’t get out of their own way on the road.

  4. joe of bel air Says:

    I will give the Ravens a pass on their losses to Seattle, Tennessee and San Diego since all 3 have shown that on any given Sunday they can beat anyone in the NFL. However that loss to the Jags is unforgiveable. With Gabbert as their QB the Ravens should have beaten the Jags 10 out of 10 times. Had they taken care of business against the Jags they could have the number 2 seed and a first round bye already locked up instead of having to beat the Bengals. I wish the Ravens nothing but good luck because if their past 6-8 performances against Cincy at Cincy are any indication of how this game is going to go, they will need all the luck they can get.

  5. Ed Says:

    Good article. This game is huge. Possibly another huge road game in Ravens history is at Dallas in 2008. But, this is the biggest. It will be awful if the Ravens lose control of the 2nd seed on the last day of the regular season.

    However, I don’t think the Steelers going to Cleveland is a walk in the park either. But it doesn’t really matter what happens in Cleveland. The Ravens need to take care business for themselves.

  6. jpetrosino Says:

    Yup, I agree. This is also a definning moment for Joe Flacco to see if he can carry the team and offense despite missing some key players in a way Manning, Bradey, Brees, Rogers, and Ben have done.

  7. unitastoberry Says:

    Memo to Pagano. Put Dalton in the hospital. Memo to Cam keep throwing deep to Rice.

  8. Mike in Hampstead Says:

    I have thought and said this since it happened: The 12-7 loss to that horrible Jacksonville team will end up haunting this team and fan base forever.

    As always, the saddest words are these: “What could have been…”

  9. Krissy Says:

    All the more reason, you need to put a bus trip together, so that we can fill the stands the pitiful home team fans can’t seem to do!

  10. warren - hunt valley Says:

    the ravens have to win this game, not only to get a bye & refresh but to get momentum especially on the road.We will have a better shot of moving on. This is a must win game i think. Nestor- good article

  11. Franchise Says:

    Nestor-

    8-0 at home
    4-4 away on road
    12-4 and #2 Seed in AFC
    Bye week and home playoff game

    If you told me this at the beginning of the regular season, i’d say thank you very much!!!

    Regards,

    Franchise

  12. Franchise Says:

    Plus, sweep the AFC North with a “W” in Cincy to go 6-0….Therefore, sweeping the Stillers and the AFC North deserves the Division Title and the #2 seed….Please, no ketchup bottle fix this year at Heinz Field in the playoffs!!!

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