NFL Playoff Scenarios: Ravens Will Clinch Bye and Knock Out Bengals

The hard-hitting Baltimore Ravens can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the division rival Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Not only will they accomplish that task, but Ray Lewis and Co. will also eliminate the Bengals in the process.

Lewis hasn't looked like his usual dominating self since suffering a toe injury in November. That makes securing a week off even more important for the Ravens, who are 8-0 inside of M&T Bank Stadium this season.

Baltimore won the first game between the two teams thanks to a big game from Torrey Smith. The rookie wide receiver poses a matchup problem for Cincinnati and could be in line for another huge outing on Sunday.

The Ravens own a tiebreaker advantage over the Pittsburgh Steelers due to the team's two head-to-head victories. They have rarely shown such elite form in other games, though, which is a concern.

It shouldn't be a major problem against Cincinnati because the Bengals haven't been able to pick up any marquee wins this season. They have taken advantage of an easy schedule to get into the position they are currently in.

They don't have any room for error with three teams just one game back. A loss would put their playoff spot in serious jeopardy. Since the Ravens are one of the NFL's most competitive teams, knowing a win could send another team packing is another layer of motivation.

Which team will win this crucial game?

    Which team will win this crucial game?

  • Baltimore Ravens

  • Cincinnati Bengals

The key to the game will be Joe Flacco protecting the ball. There have only been two games all season that the four-year QB hasn't turned it over at least once.

In critical games like the Ravens will face in the postseason, every turnover could end a team's season. A high-pressure situation like the Bengals game will be a good trail run for Flacco. Especially since he's struggled against them in the past.

Knowing the importance of the game, the Ravens defense will rise to the occasion like so many times in the past. Cincinnati doesn't have enough game-breakers outside of A.J. Green to cause issues for Baltimore.

Look for the Bengals to put up a fight into the second half before the Ravens take control in the fourth quarter. At that point, Ray Rice will do what he does best and finish off Cincinnati.

Aside from clinching a bye for themselves, the Ravens will also open up a spot for the Oakland Raiders to sneak into the playoffs.

Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1004333-nfl-playoff-scenarios-ravens-will-clinch-bye-and-knock-out-bengals

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