On the final day of the 2011 regular season, the Ravens (11-4) travel to Cincinnati to take on the desperate Bengals (9-6), who can secure a playoff spot with a win Sunday. The Ravens have a lot at stake, too, with a victory giving them the AFC North title, a first-round bye playoff and two weeks rest for a handful of ailing players.
Here are five storylines to follow Sunday as these division rivals play a must-win game (for different reasons):
1. Banged-up birds: The Week 16 win over the Cleveland Browns was a costly one for the Ravens. Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda suffered a rib injury, cornerback Cary Williams got a concussion and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe got his bell rung, too. Also, defensive end Cory Redding (ankle) and kicker Billy Cundiff (calf) sat out the game with injuries. We won’t know until after warm-ups which of these players will be healthy enough to suit up.
2. Get your ground on: It’s expected to be a windy day at Paul Brown Stadium, so don’t be surprised if these teams try to take the air out of the ball. Ravens running back Ray Rice ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns in their last meeting and Cedric Benson has had success against the Ravens in the past. There will still be passes thrown Sunday, but whoever establishes the run first will have the best chance of winning.