Well, here we are in Week 17, ready to finish off the regular season.
It feels like just yesterday I was standing out under the blazing sun in Westminster, watching two-a-day training camp practices and sweating through my polo and khaki shorts.
Lovely image, huh?
Just two days from now, the Ravens will put the cap on their 2010 regular season, and they hope to go out with a bang. A win over the Bengals would keep Baltimore's hopes of an AFC North title alive, and if the Browns are able to upset the Steelers, John Harbaugh and company would leapfrog Pittsburgh and earn the division championship.
First, though, they have to take care of business against a 4-11 Cincinnati team who is coming off two straight wins.
Here's how the Ravens and Bengals match up statistically going into Sunday's matchup:
Ravens: 331.1 (20th)
Bengals: 326.3 (22nd)
Ravens: 115.5 (13th)
Bengals: 95.5 (26th)
Ravens: 215.6 (17th)
Bengals: 230.8 (13th)
Ravens: 313.8 (8th)
Bengals: 340.9 (19th)
Ravens: 94.2 (4th)
Bengals: 116.3 (20th)
Ravens: 219.6 (15th)
Bengals: 224.5 (18th)
Ravens: +4 (t-10th)
Bengals: -5 (t-22nd)
As I touched on yesterday, we've seen two Bengals teams this year, although most Sundays it's been the bad Bengals who show up.
Cincinnati was supposed to feature a high-powered offense this season with wide receiver Terrell Owens joining the likes of Chad Ochocinco, Carson Palmer and Cedric Benson, but the Bengals never really clicked on that side of the ball.
Palmer has struggled (mightily at times), throwing 18 interceptions to just 25 touchdowns, but he's had success against the Ravens in his career, going 9-3 in 12 games.
Owens and Ochocinco are now hurt and won't play on Sunday, but Benson is still a threat, posting over 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season. Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said that stopping the Cincinnati running game will be his defense's top priority.
Despite the injuries and inconsistent play, the Bengals still have potential to drop a big number on their opponents, as the Chargers learned the hard way last week.
Defensively, the Bengals have plenty of young talent, but they haven't put things together this season. Both their run and pass defenses rank in the bottom half of the league, and they've allowed 25.5 points per game this season, 25th in the NFL.
Rookie defensive end Carlos Dunlap leads the Bengals in sacks (eight) in somewhat limited playing time, and Maryland native Dhani Jones leads the linebacking corps. Jones has posted 121 tackles on the season.
The Bengals have won three straight games over the Ravens and will be looking to earn their second straight season sweep over their division rivals and deliver a blow to Baltimore's hopes at an AFC North title at the same time.
I don't see it happening this time, however. The Ravens will come into M&T Bank Stadium looking to finish the season strong and put themselves in a position to possibly earn a first-round bye. Harbaugh said he intends to play his starters for the full game, and that group will want to continue their solid play and carry some momentum into the playoffs.
Put me down for a 24-10 Ravens win.
How do you see this one playing out? Anyone think the Bengals have what it takes to pull off the upset on Sunday? Or will the Ravens roll into postseason play with their fourth straight win?