6 playoff-worthy takeaways from Ravens’ 38-3 win over Bengals in Week 17

Kevin Oestreicher
·8 min read

The Baltimore Ravens were able to take care of business in Week 17, dismantling the Cincinnati Bengals 38-3 to secure a playoff spot. Baltimore will face off against the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round in a game where the Ravens will look to avenge their last two losses to the Titans, including their playoff exit last year.

Baltimore’s path to the playoffs was simple. If they were able to beat Cincinnati, the Ravens would secure a spot in the big dance. They did just that, dominating the Bengals in all three phases en route to a blowout win. Baltimore would go on to set several records and hit even more milestones with the win, pointing to this being a far more impressive season than many would have expected.

But as the Ravens move into the playoffs and look to win their third championship, let’s take a look at some key takeaways from their last game of the 2020 regular season.

Lamar Jackson is ready for the postseason

AP Photo/Aaron Doster

Many who look to discredit Lamar Jackson for his accomplishments are quick to go after his playoff record. Jackson has lost both of the playoff games he's been in, and on top of that, he didn't look particularly good in either contest. However, this is a new season for Jackson. After a slow start, he has come on extremely strong as of late, and that didn't change against the Bengals in Week 17. He finished the game completing 10-of-18 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown through the air while also rushing 11 times for 97 yards. While the stats don't look too impressive, Jackson was able to dial in the deep ball -- something that has been missing this season. He also sat out for the entire fourth quarter, as Baltimore dominated the game from start to finish and didn't want to risk his health up by so much. Although he wasn't perfect on Sunday, Jackson showed he is ready for the bright lights of the playoffs. Now it's up to him and the rest of the Ravens to go out and play good football for 60 minutes and overcome their biggest hurdle.

Baltimore's run game can take them far in the playoffs

AP Photo/Aaron Doster

The bread and butter of the Ravens' offense is their run game. They've been a dominant running team ever since Jackson stepped into the starting lineup, and once again, they showed just how lethal their offense can be with a good rushing attack in Week 17 against the Bengals. Baltimore ran for over 400 yards on Sunday, breaking the franchise record for rushing yards in a single game. The team arguably could have accumulated many more yards on the ground had Jackson and other offensive starters not been taken out of the game early. Dobbins' 72-yard touchdown run put them over 350 for the game at the end of the third quarter before Tyler Huntley and Mark Ingram took over on the next series to start the fourth quarter. Since Week 13, Baltimore has put up 1,337 rushing yards over five games, averaging 267 rushing-yards-per-game in the five games to close out the season. With the way the Ravens have been running the ball recently, it will be hard for any opposing defense to stop their offense. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards are playing exceptional football while Jackson is a game-breaking threat with his legs in his own right. If Baltimore sticks to their identity, they have the ability to go far in the postseason. Just take a look at how things look entering the playoffs . . . https://twitter.com/MatthewS_NFL/status/1346136080303665154

Baltimore's pass game doesn't need to put up gaudy stats to be effective

AP Photo/Aaron Doster

In Week 17 against the Bengals, the Ravens didn't have the most impressive box score stats as they completed 11-of-19 passes for just 121 yards as a team. However, that doesn't indicate just how successful the team has been throwing the football in recent weeks due to how Baltimore lets their pass game build off of their run game. With the Ravens running the ball so effectively, their passing attack doesn't need to be the focal point of their offense. However, they do have to use throws to take advantage of certain defenses and schemes -- something Baltimore has done well over the last couple of weeks. They use play-action, run-pass options, and other concepts in combination with their talent at running back and the threat of Jackson running to keep opposing defenses guessing. The end result is Baltimore has been efficient when throwing the ball in the second half of the season, even if there aren't any eye-popping numbers. If the Ravens can continue to use their passing game effectively in the postseason, they don't need to throw 50 times per game. They can still run the football on the majority of their snaps while making sure they make the most of their opportunities when they decide to air the football out.

Baltimore's defense is getting healthy and that's a scary thing for opposing offenses

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston

Baltimore's defense has been beaten up during the course of the 2020 season. Whether it has been standard injuries to players -- including putting six different cornerbacks on injured reserve -- or the 13 players that went on the Reserve/COVID-19 list this season, the Ravens haven't been close to full health on defense since Week 2 when cornerback Tavon Young suffered a season-ending knee injury. But Baltimore has persevered and at the end of the regular season, they appear to be getting healthier across the board. Baltimore got cornerback Marcus Peters back for Week 17 after he missed the previous two games with a calf injury. He finished the game with a key interception in the end zone and provides an element to the defense that the Ravens clearly missed without him. While the return of Peters is certainly a great start, more good news could be on the way for Baltimore as Yannick Ngakoue and Jimmy Smith could be returning for the playoffs. If Smith and Ngakoue truly are ready to return for the Ravens, this defense is a scary unit. The next step for them is to put together a full 60 minutes of great football, which they got close to doing against the Bengals in Week 17.

The Ravens need to be more consistent at rushing the passer

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston

Heading into Week 17, it seemed like the Ravens had potentially found their pass rush. They had just come off of a six-sack performance against Daniel Jones and the Giants, and were set to face off against a Bengals' offensive line that is widely considered one of the worst units in the NFL. However, Baltimore turned in an extremely disappointing performance from a pass-rushing perspective on Sunday. The Ravens sacked Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen zero times in Week 17. It was rare to even see Allen on the ground from pressure. Against a Bengals' offensive line that was arguably better when the two teams first matched up in Week 5, Baltimore was able to sack Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow seven times. While Cincinnati has coaches looking to improve play over the course of the season, such a disparity in sack totals between the two games is a little concerning. In the playoffs, if a team records zero sacks in a game, they were most likely on the losing end. Baltimore has to find a more consistent pass rush quickly or they could have some difficulty in the playoffs.

Baltimore is a different team in 2020 than they were in 2019

AP Photo/Aaron Doster

Baltimore's 2019 season was historic. The team broke record after record, Jackson won the second unanimous MVP in NFL history, and the team went a franchise-best 14-2. However, the Ravens seem more prepared for the playoffs this year than last. And part of that can be credited to their ability to maneuver through adversity in 2020. In 2019, not much went wrong for Baltimore. They went the entire season relatively unscathed, their offense was dominant, and for the most part, their defense could hold leads. However, once they reached the postseason, they ran into a hot Titans team at the wrong time. The Ravens were put on the ropes early and were never able to recover. Now heading into the NFL playoffs this year, Baltimore is arguably one of the hottest teams in football. The Ravens have fought through plenty of adversity this season, taking some big hits but finishing games strong, including pulling out a nail-biter against the Browns in Week 14. That ability to respond to slow starts and not get overwhelmed or in their own way is some major growth for this team since last year's playoffs and could very well come in handy if tested in the postseason.

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