To get you ready for Sunday’s colossal matchup with the Ravens, we here at WhoDeyFans will be posting a number of predictions about the game. Here’s mine:
I’m torn. The optimist in me believes the Bengals will win this game, that this team is different, and that the expectations they have leveled en route to a 9-6 record and the brink of the playoffs are a testament to a new order.
But the other side of me still has scars and bruises and psychological damage from all those near playoff misses of the past. That side remembers the upset loss to Cleveland early in Marvin Lewis’ tenure. It remembers the botched extra point in Denver and the Chris Henry touchdown that got called back. And it remembers Shayne Graham’s shanked field goal in the home loss to Pittsburgh. As Bengals fans, we have been here before. And many times, we’ve failed.
But I’m still holding onto a slippery sense of optimism heading into Sunday’s game. Here’s why:
1) A team that has been playing in a stadium that’s only been 2/3 full all season will for once get a packed house. I’m sick that I won’t be at the game Sunday because I imagine that the atmosphere will be electric. High-voltage. The defense, which is constantly fueled by emotion and energy, should be terrific. And the offensive line should be able to soak in some of that too, perhaps paving some holes that are a little bit bigger than normal.
2) Joe Flacco has been rather awful in Cincinnati. Flacco, who has been up and down throughout the majority of his career in Baltimore, has been down more often than not in the Queen City. Against a raucous crowd and a solid defense, I don’t expect that trend to stop on Sunday.
3) A.J. Green and Carlos Dunlap were non-factors against Baltimore earlier in the season. Green was out with an injury and Dunlap only participated in 12 plays I think. Thus, the Bengals biggest playmakers on both sides of the ball, were absent in a game in which Cincinnati still almost won. That should bode well for this meeting.
4) Marvin Lewis has had some success against his old team and has done even better against them in PBS. That confidence should count for something.
5) I think Cincinnati’s special teams are better across the board. And…
6) The Bengals need this game more. Win or lose, Baltimore is in the playoffs. But Cincinnati is staring at the offseason if the team falls to the Ravens on Sunday. That extra incentive could save them in the end.
Add it all together and I think there’s just enough mojo for the Bengals to sneak past the Ravens on Sunday. It should be a close game, and a low-scoring one, but I think maybe, just maybe, Cincinnati will win it, saving our psyche from more damage.
Bengals 20, Ravens 17.
Now, let’s make sure all of you going to the game do everything you can to make the dream come true.
WHO FREAKIN’ DEY.