The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals meet in a Week 17 matchup that determines whether the Super Bowl champions from 2012 have a chance at making the playoffs. Neither team boasts consistency at quarterback, keeping the possibility for disappointment high for both teams.
Meet the Cincinnati Bengals
When it came down to must-win situations, the Bengals prevailed, winning four of their last five games and ensuring they would be a part of the playoffs. Andy Dalton has played some of his best football in 2013, but also has several games where he vastly under-performed.
This is a difficult team to figure out, swinging between looking like one of the best teams in the NFL to dropping games against Miami, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. It's strange to call the final game of the season a "statement" or "barometer" game, but it affords the Bengals an opportunity to continue their momentum into the playoffs.
Meet the Baltimore Ravens
It's rare to hear to little about a former Super Bowl champion, but the Ravens have been under the radar for much of the 2013 season. This is largely due to Joe Flacco regressing in 2013, throwing the most interceptions and posting the lowest passer rating of his career.
The Ravens are well coached and still boast a dangerous defense, which is a testament to this team's ability to still be in the playoff hunt despite struggles from Flacco and Ray Rice. They need a win in Week 17 to potentially make the playoffs, and will be a fascinating team if they're able to break through.
Local Takes: Cincinnati Bengals
Anthony Consenza from Cincy Jungle talked about the expectations placed on Andy Dalton, and how he has performed.
While Dalton has his long line of critics, both inside and outside of Bengaldom, his 29 wins in his first three years as a starter is one of the best in league history. He's also nipping at the team's single-season passing records for yards and touchdowns, set by his predecessor, Carson Palmer. As if that isn't enough, Dalton is also been a key factor of the team making the playoffs three straight years, which is an unprecedented feat in the franchise's history.
Local Takes: Baltimore Ravens
The future of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell came into question and his seat is getting hot, according to Michael Perry.
That was then. This is now. The Ravens are 26th in points per game, 29th in yards per game, 19th in pass yards per game, and 28th in rush yards per game. It gets uglier. Ray Rice, once a top tier running back, is averaging 3.1 yards per carry. Bernard Pierce, once one of the most promising running backs in the league, is averaging 2.8 yards per carry. Joe Flacco has been sacked 46 times for 307 yards, which is nearly half of Ray Rice's rushing yards this season.
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In his past four games played in December, Dalton has generated 10 touchdowns and only one interception for a passer rating of 108.1.— Josh Kirkendall (@CincyJungle) December 24, 2013
Joe Flacco not worrying about interception total in 2013 season: http://t.co/1gdX3RzAAJ— Baltimore Beatdown (@BMoreBeatdown) December 26, 2013
The SB Nation panel was split on this Week 17 matchup, with the slight majority siding with Cincinnati, 3-2.
Cincinnati is a 7-point favorite, according to OddsShark. Some outlets are offering 6 points.
The playoffs begin for the Bengals next week, but it's unclear if the Ravens can secure a playoff spot and be in the picture.