The Baltimore Ravens are faced with a must-win matchup today against the rival Cincinnati Bengals, and they will also hope that the New York Jets can top the Miami Dolphins. If both happen today, then the Ravens will be in the playoffs as the sixth seed in the AFC, and the painful Week 16 loss against the New England Patriots will be a thing of the past for the Ravens.
According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, star running back Ray Rice and star wide receiver Torrey Smith are expected to play today despite being listed questionable on the Ravens official injury report. I’ll take things a step further by saying that I would be beyond shocked if either player misses today’s must-win game, and Smith’s thigh injury is barely worth noting at this point; Rice’s is worth noting, but it was never expected to cause him to miss this week’s game.
Against the hard-nosed Bengals defense, it’s important for the Ravens run blocking to finally bounce back, because it’s been surprisingly atrocious this season. That’s been the real root cause for Rice’s and Bernard Pierce’s struggles this year, and the running game needs to step up big-time to help Joe Flacco out. Flacco is likely a great deal more healthy than he was last week, but I would be surprised if the knee still isn’t bothering him. If Flacco’s health is fine and the running game isn’t dreadful, then we could see some nice bombs from Flacco to Torrey Smith to try and catch the Bengals where they are most vulnerable.