Here’s how The Baltimore Sun sports staff views the outcome of Sunday night’s wild-card round playoff game between the Ravens (10-7) and Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) at Paycor Stadium.
Hayes Gardner, reporter
Bengals 17, Ravens 13: With strong defensive play, the Ravens will contain the Cincinnati offense, to a degree, and stay in the game until the end; it won’t be as one-sided as Vegas projects. But the Ravens’ offense has been a shadow of itself without Lamar Jackson, averaging 12.5 points over the past six games. It’ll be tough for them to score enough to win.
Mike Preston, columnist
Bengals 20, Ravens 17: If quarterback Lamar Jackson were playing, this would be my upset special. It’s not as if he was going to add two or three touchdowns, but he would have given the offense enough of a spark to complement the defense. The Bengals are soft and the Ravens have no fear of them. Even without Jackson, they will play Cincinnati tough and I would not be surprised if the Ravens still win. The Bengals have too many weapons for the Ravens to overcome, though the defense will have quarterback Joe Burrow running scared. Note to Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman: Take some vertical shots down the field with Isaiah Likely and line him up on the outside rather than tight end.
Childs Walker, reporter
Bengals 24, Ravens 19: The Ravens have found an effective formula for frustrating Joe Burrow and his crew of gifted pass catchers. But we simply have not seen evidence they can score enough points with Tyler Huntley in place of Lamar Jackson at quarterback. The Bengals will hold them off in a tense, punishing game.
Ryan McFadden, reporter
Bengals 21, Ravens 13: There’s a lot of bad blood going into this game and I think that will show up during the early stages Sunday night. The Ravens will come out with a ton of momentum, especially on defense, but at the end of the day, the Bengals have too much firepower on offense and it will be hard for the Ravens to keep up without quarterback Lamar Jackson.
C.J. Doon, editor
Ravens 19, Bengals 16: Every postseason features at least one or two upsets. Given how well the Ravens’ defense played against Joe Burrow in the regular-season finale, this could be one of them. Quarterback Tyler Huntley isn’t Lamar Jackson, but he’s more experienced than rookie Anthony Brown, who turned the ball over three times last week. A dominant defensive performance and an effective rushing attack will be just enough for the Ravens to stun the defending AFC champions. Don’t overlook the “nobody believes in us” factor.
Tim Schwartz, editor
Bengals 21, Ravens 20: The Ravens’ defense is ready for Joe Burrow. But I just don’t think the Ravens’ offense is ready to outperform the Bengals’ with Tyler Huntley under center. But as noted above, you cannot discount the fact that the majority of fans and media have already counted Baltimore out. Pride matters more this time of year, and the Ravens have a lot of it. Ultimately, Cincinnati has more talent, and most of the time, talent wins out. But you can bank on the Ravens covering the spread, at least.