Breaking down a worst-case scenario: Ravens face Bengals in Wild Card round

Ravens. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)
Ravens. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens already made the playoffs in 2022, but there’s still plenty to play for in the final two games of the regular season.

For one, the Ravens’ Week 18 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals could likely determine the AFC North winner, giving that team the home advantage as a top seed in the AFC playoff picture.

Baltimore bested Cincy earlier this season, 19-17, in a relatively low-scoring affair that saw the Ravens’ defense stand tall against Joe Burrow and his talented wide receiver corps. Both Burrrow and Lamar Jackson recorded one passing touchdown and one interception apiece, and the game ultimately came down to Justin Tucker, who completed a 43-yarder on the final play to secure the win.

Assuming Lamar Jackson recovers in time, expect another uber-tense matchup between two AFC heavyweights in Week 18, although the Bengals arguably have the upper hand given their excellent form of late.

In a worst-case scenario for the Ravens, the team loses their final two regular season games and then… meets the Bengals again for a Wild Card playoff game in January.

ESPN’s Seth Walder predicted the 2022 playoff picture and had the Ravens meeting the Bengals in the Wild Card round:

"In recent weeks, it has felt inevitable that the red-hot Bengals would win this division over the stumbling Ravens…. Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and the Cincinnati offense get it done, though, dropping 31 points on the Ravens in a one-score Week 18 contest, giving the Bengals home-field advantage for their postseason rematch a week later."

Ravens will want to avoid Bengals in the 2022 playoffs if possible

In Walder’s simulation, the Ravens lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 13-10, in Week 17. This seems wholly possible given the fact that Ravens-Steelers games are usually close and Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin knows how to push Baltimore’s pressure points.

The Bengals get blown out by the Buffalo Bills, 37-9, that same week, which means the AFC North winner would be decided by the final game of the season.

Walder predicts the Bengals will beat the Ravens, 31-25, in Week 18 and take the divisional crown. Cincy thus earns the third seed in the AFC and hosts the Ravens, who would be seeded sixth, in the Wild Card round.

This simulation reads more pessimistic than not as it foreshadows the Ravens dropping their next two regular season games and getting a lowly playoff seed. However, there lies some truth to these predictions since Baltimore has not been playing good football lately — with Jackson potentially out for Week 17, Tyler Huntley may struggle against a well-coached Steelers squad and the Ravens could easily lose that game just as they lost to the Browns a few weeks prior.

The Ravens’ offense has come to a screeching halt after Jackson’s injury, ranking dead last in the league in red zone touchdown percentage (22.22 percent) in the last three weeks.

Then, in perhaps the most crucial game of the year, Baltimore has to face a Bengals team currently on an terrifying rampage having overpowered the Titans, Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Patriots.

The Buffalo Bills may be able to humble Cincy a bit this week, but even then, the Bengals’ offense has outshined that of the Ravens in nearly all categories. Not even a miraculous Lamar Jackson return may save Baltimore in Week 18.

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The Ravens could do worse than playing the Bengals in the Wild Card round, but this is one matchup the team will want to avoid if possible. Baltimore’s end-of-season objective is simple enough: Win out.