UPDATE: Sunday, December 30 at 11:35 a.m. ET by Alex Kay
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Rice will only play a handful of snaps before retiring to the bench.
Last second change with the Ravens. Ravens running back Ray Rice is active and is going to play a series or two.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 30, 2012
We'll keep you updated right here if anything changes on this front.
---END OF UPDATE---
The Baltimore Ravens have little to gain by jumping up from the No. 4 seed (their current position) to the No. 3 in the upcoming AFC playoffs. This is exactly why coach John Harbaugh has elected to give superstar RB Ray Rice a day off.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the AFC North champions will not play Rice in the Week 17 season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. He finishes the 2012 campaign with 254 carries for 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns, plus 61 receptions for 478 yards and one score.
With Baltimore having wrapped up the AFC North title, Ravens RB Ray Rice is not expected to play today.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 30, 2012
The Worldwide Leader’s Jamison Hensley confirmed the report and noted that rookie Bernard Pierce would get the first start of his young career on Sunday.
This isn’t a surprising move, considering the Ravens have no chance of earning a bye—regardless of the outcome of this impending contest against Cincy.
With the Indianapolis Colts locked into the No. 5 seed and the Bengals at No. 6, it seems Baltimore currently holds the most desirable position going into Wildcard Weekend.
If the Ravens hang on to the No. 4 seed, they will host rookie QB Andrew Luck’s upstart Colts—a team with little postseason experience and a dreadful defense. On paper, it’s a much better matchup for the AFC North winners when compared with facing Cincinnati for a third time this season.
However, there’s no guarantee that Baltimore will lose in Week 17, as Pierce has proven himself a capable back.
The third-round pick out of Temple rushed for 123 yards on 14 attempts against the New York Giants last Sunday, and has 86 carries for 443 yards and a score on the year.
Which seed would the Ravens be better off with?
We fully expect Pierce to continue running his hardest and trying to prove to the world that he’s an up-and-coming star in this league.
A Pats victory means nothing changes, while a loss gives NE the 4 and BAL the 3.
All we know is it’s going to be a wild finish—regardless of Ray Rice’s absence—and the Ravens are still a force that could easily beat the Bengals on the back of Bernard Pierce.