In a potential playoff matchup and divisional rivalry, the Cincinnati Bengals (9-5) host the Baltimore Ravens (10-6) in a tune-up game before both teams make the playoffs.
The Ravens officially clinched the AFC North last week with a win over the New York Giants, while the Bengals clinched the No. 6 seed in the playoffs this season behind the play of the team's stingy defense.
Now both teams enter Week 17 knowing exactly what seed they will have for the postseason, but will still fight for momentum and bragging rights as they approach this last game of the season.
Where: Paul Brown Stadium
When: Sunday, Dec. 30 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL.com
Betting Line: Cincinnati (-3), according to Bovada
Baltimore Injury Report (via Yahoo! Sports as of Dec. 25, 2012)
|Ed Reed S||Probable||Shoulder|
|Marshal Yanda G||Questionable||Ankle|
|Torrey Smith WR||Questionable||Head|
|Bernard Pierce RB||Questionable||Head|
|Albert McClellan LB||Questionable||Thigh, shoulder|
|Vonta Leach RB||Questionable||Ankle|
|Dannell Ellerbe LB||Questionable||Ankle|
|Tandon Doss WR||Questionable||Ankle|
|Bernard Pollard S||Doubtful||Chest|
Cincinnaty Injury Report (via Yahoo! Sports as of Dec. 25, 2012)
|Cedric Peerman RB||Questionable||Ankle|
|Mike Nugent K||Questionable||Head|
|Adam Jones CB||Questionable||Hamstring|
|Carlos Dunlap DE||Probable||Illness|
|Dre Kirkpatrick CB||Day-to-Day||Knee|
What's at Stake?
Though the Bengals already locked up the No. 6 seed, the Ravens could still improve their seeding. Baltimore currently holds the No. 4 seed, but a victory over Cincinnati and a New England loss would bump them to No. 3.
In addition, this is still an AFC North rivalry, and the history between these two teams will be more than enough motivation for both teams to go hard on Sunday.
Baltimore RB Bernard Pierce
With Ray Rice likely spending a lot of time on the bench to avoid injury, lead-back duties will fall to Pierce, who is coming off a huge game.
Pierce ran for an incredible 123 yards on 14 carries last week against the Giants, and he always has the potential for a big run.
While the Bengals defense ranks No. 10 against the run, it is still the weakest part of the team's defense, and Pierce will try to exploit that.
Predicted Stats: 17 carries, 73 yards, 1 TD
Cincinnati RB Cedric Peerman
Peerman is another backup running back who will likely be handling the starting role on Sunday.
The Ravens struggle against the run, ranking No. 24 in the league. The team gives up 127.9 yards per game on the ground, and was giving up 173.0 yards per game in the two games before last week.
Peerman isn't a great back, but he is averaging 7.9 yards per carry during the season
Predicted Stats: 12 carries, 58 yards, 1 TD
What They're Saying
Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin has a shoulder injury, and is questionable for Sunday's matchup:
With the Ravens already in the playoffs, he will likely not play much (if at all) against the Bengals.
Meanwhile, Bengals rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is done for the season:
Kirkpatrick has a bright future, but he will miss out on the postseason because of the injury.
Key Matchup: How long will the starters play?
This game is going to be won by whichever team wants it more.
If one team decides that the rivalry is important and it plays its starters well into the fourth quarter, that team will win.
If one team decides to focus on the playoffs and only plays its starters for one quarter, that team will lose.
It really is as simple as that.
I see the Bengals trying a lot harder in this game. The Ravens are always in the playoffs, but the Bengals are looking for a 10-win season and bragging rights.
The Bengals starters will play long enough to build up a solid lead against the Ravens bench and win the game because of it.
Predicted Score: Bengals 16, Ravens 10