Done deal: The Ravens have clinched the AFC North crown and will host a playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium. Right now, they’re the No. 4 seed, which means if the season ended today, they’d face the Indianapolis Colts (still hard to say those words together, isn’t it?) and rookie quarterback Oliver Luck.
The Ravens have a shot at moving up to the No. 3 seed with a win over the Bengals this weekend in Baltimore. But they also need New England, who plays mediocre Miami, to lose. If that happens, then the Ravens get the Bengals again.
So, the question is, who would the Ravens rather play? And, is the difference between playing the Colts and Bengals worth playing a banged-up starter or risking injury to one of the few healthy players remaining at this point in the season.
My guess is that the Ravens are better off getting the veterans more rest. Then face a rookie quarterback at home rather than a division rival that knows them pretty well. Treat the Bengals game like the last exhibition match of the season. Let the starters, who are healthy, go hard for two quarters and pull ‘em. Who knows, though? Luck has been a miracle worker with the 10-5 Colts.
Meanwhile, Ravens coach John Harbaugh says the team has a plan. But he’s not sharing it.
Thanks, coach. I imagine that’ll keep some of the wagering down this Sunday.
Here’s what some others are saying about the game, including who is expected to play and who is expected to sit:
BaltimoreRavens.com: “Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and guard Marshal Yanda could be two candidates to get Week 17 off. Neither practiced all week and they are listed as questionable.”
Cincinnati.com: "After having everyone take part in practice on Wednesday, (running back) BenJarvus Green-Ellis and (kicker) Mike Nugent did not participate during Thursday’s session which was held at Paul Brown Stadium . . . Green-Ellis did not practice due to illness, which has been a common theme in the locker room the past couple weeks.”
CBSports.com: "We didn't kick the season off very good, and now we get to finish it at home," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "We don't know who we will play (in the playoffs) or where. We just have to take it on ourselves.”
ESPN.com: “Yes, Cincinnati has holes, but it also has a defense that quietly is sixth in the NFL in yards allowed and first in sacks. And it has a defensive coordinator in Mike Zimmer who is creative with how and when he brings pressure.”
Associated Press: “The truth is, both of us are teams that are going to playing an extra week,” Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “It’s also an early test to both of us to be playing the kind of ball you have to play in the playoffs to make it to where you want to go.”