The Ravens will get another shot against the Bengals in the playoffs, and they’re embracing it.
Baltimore will visit Cincinnati on Wild Card Weekend, Sunday night at 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC). The Ravens-Bengals AFC North rematch was the star of Sunday Night Football.
Cincinnati’s 27-16 win over the Ravens (10-7) locked Baltimore in the No. 6 seed. Cincinnati (11-5) is the No. 3 seed and will host Baltimore again at Paycor Stadium, setting up an interesting playoff rematch between the AFC North rivals. The teams split their regular season games, with each team winning at home.
When they meet again at the Wild-Card weekend, the stakes will be much higher, with the winner advancing and the loser going home. Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey said he couldn’t wait.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Humphrey said. “We just had a scrum.
“They know us pretty well. It’s just going to be a matter of who the better team is. When you play three times, the better team usually shows up.”
The Ravens are hoping Lamar Jackson (knee) will be healthy enough to make the playoffs after missing the final five games of the regular season. Jackson was in the lineup when the Ravens beat the Bengals, 19-17, in Week 5, but no matter who plays quarterback, Baltimore isn’t conceding.
“Of course, if Lamar, if he’s able to go there, that gives us the best chance of winning,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “I’m going to encourage that and hope that happens. At the same time, that’s football. We have faith in ourselves. We’re going to go out there, with whoever we put there, and do our best shot.”
The Bengals’ win on Sunday didn’t propel them into the No. 2 seed, as the Bills (14-3) maintained the No. 2 seed by beating the Patriots. In other AFC Wild-Card matchups, the Bills will host the Dolphins, who secured the final AFC playoff spot with a victory over the Jets. The fourth-seeded Jaguars will host the fifth-seeded Chargers, while the Chiefs will get a first-round bye.
Both teams had already secured a playoff berth before Sunday’s kickoff, but the level of intensity was high and it will be even higher in the playoffs. The Ravens rested a few starters in Week 18, including tight end Mark Andrews, running back JK Dobbins and right guard Kevin Zeitler. But there will be no holding back in the playoffs, when all healthy starters play, and there will be no holding back regarding each team’s game plan and strategy.
Even in this game, there were hard knocks and chatter everywhere, and Campbell wasn’t surprised. Many people expected the Bengals and Ravens to fight for the AFC North crown before the start of the season, and that’s exactly what happened. Cincinnati won its second straight division title, but know that the Ravens want to go through Cincinnati en route to a bigger prize.
“It’s playoff football,” Campbell said. “Against a division opponent it’s kind of like what it will be next week. I respect them a lot, these guys are talented as they can be, play with a lot of heart. Chippiness is part of the game. They want it just as bad as us. It will depend on who plays the better ball.”
It was the first Ravens-Bengals game for inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who was all over the field with a game-high 16 tackles. Smith has embraced the rivalries within the AFC North since being acquired in a midseason trade, and he likes the idea of starting the playoffs against a divisional opponent.
“I’m looking forward to next week,” Smith said. “These guys know that when we come back next week we’ll be there. I’m excited and I think it will be a great opportunity for us to show the world exactly what we’re going to do.”