The 2010 regular season comes to a close today, and the Ravens will look to end it in style by picking up their 12th win on the year.
Baltimore hosts the 4-11 Bengals today, a team that won the AFC North last season but has struggled mightily this year, losing 10 games in a row at one point.
Here are three keys to today’s game from the Ravens’ perspective:
Don’t go gettin’ hurt
With the division title still up for grabs, head coach John Harbaugh is going to play his starters today and hope that the Ravens can swoop in and earn the AFC North and a first-round bye. Harbaugh said this week that he won’t pull his key players regardless of what’s going on in the Steelers-Browns game, which leaves him open to some second-guessing if one of his starters goes down injured. The Ravens will be crossing their fingers today and hoping that they avoid any major injuries which could carry into postseason action next week.
Keep on running
The Ravens’ run game has started to come alive the last couple weeks, and they’d love to carry some positive momentum in that department into the playoffs by continuing their effectiveness on the ground today. Cincinnati has the league’s 20th ranked rush defense and allows over 115 yards on the ground per game, so the opportunities will certainly be there for Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain to put up some big numbers.
For whatever reason, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has dominated the Ravens over the years, posting a 9-3 record against Baltimore, including wins in his last three games against the boys from Charm City. Palmer has been incredibly inconsistent this season, however, leading to some talk that the Bengals might look to go in a different direction at quarterback next year. The USC product showed last week that he won’t end the 2010 season quietly, as he shredded the Chargers’ secondary, throwing for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Palmer will be without top wideouts Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens because of injury today, but he still has weapons in the passing game and the Ravens will need to get him out of whatever comfort zone he seems to find when facing the purple and black.