A coin flip won’t be needed as the third-seeded Bengals will face the Ravens in Cincinnati next week
Jan 8, 2023
4:24 pm ET
1 min read
In one of the most consequential games of Week 18, the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the division rival Baltimore Ravens 27-16, securing a home game in the first round of the playoffs in the process as a third seed.
The Ravens sat numerous starters for this contest, while the Bengals played their healthy players in an attempt to both avoid a coin flip to determine home field in a potential playoff rematch between these two teams, and also keep pressure on the Buffalo Bills in the race for the No. 2 seed in the AFC. The results on the field largely reflected the differing strategy, with Cincinnati taking a double-digit lead late in the first quarter and not being seriously threatened for the remaining 46 minutes of the game.
The Bengals defense picked off undrafted rookie quarterback Anthony Brown twice in the first half, with each of those interceptions leading to a Cincinnati touchdown. Joe Mixon scored from 1 yard out after Tyler Boyd got the Bengals down to the goal line, while Ja’Marr Chase made a leaping snag for a 26-yard score later in the half. Cincinnati also got a defensive score via a Trey Hendrickson strip-sack, which resulted in a Joseph Ossai touchdown when he recovered the ball in the end zone.
Cincinnati’s offense didn’t get much going for most of the second half (it had a 67-yard field goal drive but otherwise gained only 15 yards on seven possessions), but the lead the Bengals had built was large enough that it didn’t much matter. Three Ravens field goals in the second half were barely enough to put a dent in the deficit, and the Bengals won the game rather comfortably.
Why the Bengals wonThey tried to win the game and the Ravens mostly did not. The Bengals played their starters in this one, while the Ravens played a great number of backups. So, even though their offensive performance actually wasn’t all that great (Joe Burrow averaged 5.1 yards per attempt and Joe Mixon gained only 2.5 yards per carry), they were never seriously threatened here. Their defense did an excellent job of making things difficult for Baltimore’s third-string quarterback and added a touchdown on a strip-sack, so that was a nice positive.
Why the Ravens lostThey sat numerous offensive starters, and the deep backups did honestly not put up much of a fight. The game was not as close as the final score. Plus, they turned it over four times.
Turning pointI was tempted to say, “when the teams announced their inactive lists” but instead we’ll go with an actual play from the game. Cincinnati took a 3-0 lead after its first possession of the game, a 17-play, 64-yard drive that ended with Evan McPherson knocking it through the uprights.
On the first play of the next drive, Anthony Brown tried to find Isaiah Likely coming across the field on a crossing route, but pressure got to him just as he was preparing to throw, so he missed way high and way intercepted by Jessie Bates. Eight plays later, Joe Mixon found his way into the end zone to give the Bengals a two-score lead.
Baltimore’s next drive lasted just three plays, with Brown throwing behind Demarcus Robinson and getting picked off by Von Bell. Three snaps later, this happened …
Play of the gameOn second-and-4 from the Baltimore 26-yard line, Joe Burrow had Tee Higgins wide the heck open for what should have been one of the easiest touchdown connections of his career. Uncharacteristically, Burrow overthrew his man by several years. It didn’t matter. On the very next snap, Burrow laid the ball up for Ja’Marr Chase in pretty much the exact same spot on the field, and Chase went out and dunked on Daryl Worley for the score.
What’s nextThe Bengals are AFC North champions. Thanks to the Bills’ victory over the Patriots, Cincinnati will be the No. 3 seed in the AFC. With this loss, the Ravens are locked into the No. 6 seed. What does that mean? Well, it means the Bengals will host the Ravens next week in the Wild Card Round. Baltimore could get Lamar Jackson (among others) back for that contest, which would make it look quite a bit different than this week’s matchup. The Bengals will have to keep an eye on the health of offensive lineman Alex Cappa, who left with what looked like a very uncomfortable leg injury during the second half.