Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals: Raves the call with home side lacking motivation

The Ravens must win at Cincinnati on Sunday
The Ravens must win at Cincinnati on Sunday

Neil Harvey previews Sunday's crucial clash in Cincinnati where the Baltimore Ravens must win if they are to keep their slim Superbowl hopes alive...

Recommended Bets

Back Baltimore to Win @ 3.412/5

Back Baltimore (+5) to Win @ 2.01/1 (sportsbook)

Back Cincinnati points to be under 25 @ 1.9110/11 (sportsbook)


Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, 18:00
Live on Sky Sports 3

Baltimore still have one hand on their Superbowl title, but their grip is loose, and their fingers are starting to slip, as they have to beat Cincinnati this Sunday, and hope that their wildcard rivals slip-up, if they're to sneak into the post-season.

A huge factor in the Ravens' favour is that their opponents this weekend have already qualified for the play-offs. For the Bengals, this game is a nuisance. No, it's more than that, it's a major pain in the butt, as it's a game in which they'll be terrified of sustaining injuries to key players such as AJ Green and Andy Dalton, without whom they might as well just give up now.

Whereas for Baltimore, this is last-chance saloon. One last opportunity to perhaps drink-in the sweet taste of that headiest of sporting drugs that is play-off football.

Certainly on paper, Cincinnati would normally be bankers to win this game. Put their unbeaten 7-0 home record up against Baltimore's feeble 2-5 away record and this would appear to be a mismatch. But for the reasons I've already explained, you need to throw that form book away.

We also need to dismiss the rhetoric coming put of the Cincinnati camp. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis might say he has no intention of resting his starters, but I just don't buy it. He simply cannot afford to lose star receiver Green or quarterback Dalton, who have proved themselves to be one of the top touchdown partnerships in the NFL. And if you don't believe me, then just look at the problems Green Bay have had because of the injury to Aaron Rodgers. For a team like Cincinnati, who rely heavily on a small number of top performers, such an injury to one of their key players would most likely be something they would not be able to overcome.

So then expect the Bengals to be treading on egg-shells come Sunday. And in the blood and thunder game of American Football, that is not an approach that can succeed. And certainly not against opponents who've already had the better of them. Back in Week 10, with the help of home advantage, Baltimore edged out the Cincinnati 20-17. Now under normal circumstances you might have considered that a result the Bengals could reverse. But not on this occasion. The Ravens already know exactly what it takes to beat Cincinnati. And again, motivation here is everything.

Even in that defeat, Cincinnati's star duo of Green and Dalton played major roles, with Green leading the game in receiving yards, while Dalton out-threw his opposing number, Joe Flacco.

So should either of those two be off their game, or lacking in motivation for any reason, one can only suspect it would leave the Bengals in a whole heap of trouble. The reality is, there's every chance that one or both of those guys could be pulled from the game altogether, especially in the Bengals fall behind early on. So backing them to have unproductive games has to be the sensible call.

Baltimore need a win. And with their entire season riding on this game, they won't leave anything to chance. They won't want to see the Bengals with ball in hand, and coming at them with two minutes left on the clock. So expect the Ravens to get themselves two scores ahead before they'll even think about running out the clock.

Everything considered, I'm sure the Ravens will go out at some point this season. But I'm also confident that when they do, it will be with a bang, not a whimper. So back them to secure victory over a Bengals team that's been reliant on team-spirit and a handful of star-players, both of which could be missing for this fixture.


Recommended Bets

Back Baltimore to Win @ 3.412/5
Back Baltimore (+5) to Win @ 2.01/1 (sportsbook)
Back Cincinnati points to be under 25 @ 1.9110/11 (sportsbook)


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