The Bengals are locked in to the 6th seed of the playoffs no matter whether they win or lose against the Ravens. So it is natural to wonder whether Marvin might choose to
sit rest some of his normal starters in the season finale. Of course, Marvin was asked about it. He gave what I say is the right answer: No. It’s not the right answer because the front office is still hoping to sell out the game. It’s right because getting that 10th win this season is huge for this organization.
Improve on last year’s record. After starting out the 2011 season at 6-2, the team limped its way to a 9-7 finish. Even though this year’s competition was a little better, repeating a 9-7 record is less than ideal. Getting to double-digit wins would show that the foundation of this team is rock solid.
Beat a playoff team. So far, they are 0-2 against the Ravens and Broncos. The Redskins are the only contender they have beaten so far, and if the ‘Skins lose to Dallas this week, they will be 0-3 against playoff teams. Losing to the Ravens will resurrect all of last year’s talk about how the Bengals can’t beat good teams.
Beat a division rival. Beating the Steelers on their home turf to knock them out of the playoffs was a satisfying win. That was the kind of game that the Bengals have been all too prone over the years to finding some mind-numbingly frustrating way to lose. The Steelers just seem to normally have the Bengals’ number in games like that. But let’s face it, the Steelers just weren’t that good this year. They were like Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story… all intimidation and no punch at gut-check time.
The Ravens are also stumbling toward the end of the season, and now is the perfect time to punch them hard and bloody their nose as well. Put the division on notice that the Bengals are for real. Beating the two teams that have harassed them most in back-to-back weeks sends that message. Style points mean nothing in a bare-knuckles division like the AFC North, but wins do.
Build momentum into the playoffs. Over the past few years, the football gods seem to have revoked the advantage of the bye week and even of home-field advantage. The 6th seed has not been a mere consolation prize recently, either. The Bengals will face a challenging road through the playoffs no matter what. Ending the season by beating a playoff-bound division foe would be a nice boost of confidence that this team can keep pace with quality opponents. And since sitting good players to end the season has been the quickest way out of the playoffs lately, let’s not tempt fate.
Energize the fan base. Bengals fans have been dying for a team that will reward their loyalty with wins. But they have been burned too many times to have blind faith any more. They need proof that they won’t be disappointed once again. Once they have it, watch out! A win over the Ravens this week would show fans that good times aren’t just coming, but they are here. Watch season ticket sales for 2013 pick up with a win this week… or stay flat with a loss.
So when you read again and again this week that the game against the Ravens is “meaningless,” give a hearty laugh, shake your head or simply make fun of the author. We know very well that any game against the Ravens is important, but the one this week is especially so.