|Ravens Continue to Fight For Playoff Spot Sunday Against Bengals|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Wednesday, 26 November 2008 13:26|
AFC North Matchup
Cincinnati, OH - If the Baltimore Ravens expect to reach the postseason, they can't look past their next opponent - especially with a grueling schedule ahead of them.
Looking to stay on track for the playoffs, the Ravens seek their sixth win in seven games on Sunday as they face the struggling Cincinnati Bengals.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Ravens -7 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 85% of bets for this game have been placed on Ravens -7 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Baltimore (7-4) didn't look like a postseason team during a three-game slide from Sept. 29-Oct. 12, but has rebounded by winning five of six - a stretch capped by a 36-7 victory over visiting Philadelphia last Sunday.
Though the Ravens are in good position, they've managed to keep things in perspective with five contests remaining - three coming against other playoff contenders, including a Dec. 14 matchup versus AFC North-leading Pittsburgh, which owns a one-game edge on Baltimore.
But before focusing on next month's critical contests, the Ravens must first get past the last-place Bengals (1-9-1). Baltimore is trying to halt its three-game losing streak at Paul Brown Stadium and sweep the season series from the Bengals for the first time since 2002.
"I just know the next team on our schedule is the Bengals, and that's the way our guys are approaching the game," linebacker Ray Lewis told the Ravens' official Web site. "We're just fighting and not taking anybody lightly.
"Also, they're in our division, bottom line. So any time you come up on a division foe, it's always extra attention that you pay to your opponents and just keep going from there."
Lewis and the defense have been doing their part to keep Baltimore in the win column.
The Ravens' unit, which has been among the best in the NFL this decade, ranks among the league's leaders in total defense (277.0 yards per game) and points allowed (17.0). It turned in another dominant effort last weekend by holding Philadelphia to 206 yards - the fewest yielded since a Week 2 win over Cleveland.
The Ravens also came away with four interceptions for the second time in three games, giving them a NFL-high 19 takeaways. Safety Ed Reed accounted for two of those picks, returning the first 43 yards and the second an NFL-record 107 for a touchdown - surpassing his own record by one yard.
Baltimore doesn't figure to be challenged by a Cincinnati offense that has managed a league-low 258.2 yards per game and averages 13.5 points. In its most recent game, Cincinnati totaled 208 yards - and tied a season worst with 43 on the ground - in a 27-10 loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 20.
The Ravens held the Bengals to 154 yards in a 17-10 home victory in the teams' season opener as quarterback Joe Flacco went 15-for-29 for 129 yards in his debut. Baltimore had 229 yards rushing in that contest.
Flacco has been efficient in taking care of the ball with nine touchdowns and two interceptions in his last six games.
Cincinnati's offense, meanwhile, is led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been taking the snaps in place of injured Pro Bowler Carson Palmer.
While the Ravens faced Palmer in the opener, they'll be getting their first look at Fitzpatrick, who has thrown six touchdowns in seven starts. Fitzpatrick went 20-for-37 for 168 yards and a TD versus Pittsburgh.
"(He) can throw it, and he's a big, strong, talented guy. And he can run with the ball, too," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a threat to scramble out of the pocket, makes throws on the run, so we think he's a very dangerous quarterback."
Fitzpatrick's top receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh leads the team with 746 yards and four touchdowns, but the quarterback could also have a target in Chad Ocho Cinco, who may be back in the lineup after being benched for the Bengals' last game.
The former Chad Johnson, who has totaled 383 yards with four TDs, was punished for showing up late for a team meeting and exchanging words with a coach. Coach Marvin Lewis, though, said Ocho Cinco would play if his sore right knee allows.
"I think he'll be good," Lewis said. "If he's healthy and he goes through the week and we feel like he's our best, he'll get an opportunity."
Top Betting Trends:
Did you like this article? Subscribe to our NFL news feed for the fastest updates delivered right to you - Click here to Subscribe
Posted: 11/27/08 12:25PM ET