The Baltimore Ravens clinched the AFC North last week with their win over the New York Giants in Week 16. However, the Ravens still have a chance to improve their position in the conference with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals this week and a loss from the Patriots.
Even though their destiny isn’t completely in their hands, the Ravens will be more at ease since they guaranteed themselves a home playoff game with last week’s win.
It is also a sigh of relief for the team that they garnered a win to escape their three-game skid — their worst such streak since 2009.
All thoughts of “backing in” to the playoffs were dismissed last week as the Ravens virtually dominated the Giants on home turf.
That being said, the Ravens aren’t looking to rest too many players going into the regular season finale.
As they shouldn’t.
As former Jets and Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards once said, “You play to win the game, hello!”
The Ravens have been banged up quite a bit this season and it would seem that the Ravens would try to give some of their valuable commodities some form of rest in the final week of the regular season. The Ravens have more on their minds though.
They have instead decided to rest some of their players during the week that are nursing injuries but are looking to play come Sunday. They are also trying to give some players that have missed significant time this season a good amount of practice reps as players like Ray Lewis and Jimmy Smith were full participants in practice on Thursday.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced earlier this week that Ray Lewis, despite practicing fully, will not return to action until the postseason.
It is a little alarming that Anquan Boldin and Albert McClellan were limited Thursday, but the Ravens may decide to rest them as McClellan missed last week’s game (shoulder/thigh) and Boldin left the game after making a diving catch in the second half (shoulder).
The status of Bernard Pollard remains uncertain even though he was a full participant at practice Thursday.
Even though the Ravens still have quite a few injuries, they will play to win against a Bengals team that can’t improve their position as the sixth seed in the AFC.
The Ravens will use this game to try and fine tune things on both sides of the ball and finish the regular season how they started — with a win over the Bengals.
Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell had to be pleased with his unit’s performance last week against the Giants as the offense took a complete 180 and put 33 on the board as they won in convincing fashion. They also netted an astounding 533 net yards on offense and both Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice went for over 100 yards on the ground.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees had to be satisfied with his defense even though they didn’t commit any turnovers. Giving up under 186 net yards on offense last week reminded Ravens fans of the “golden years” of the Ravens, where defense was the main staple in the organization’s success.
The Ravens will use the Cincinnati game to finalize any holes they may have heading into the postseason, while also giving select players the rest they need to be healthy going into Wild Card weekend.
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