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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ravens beat Bengals to end season

Ray Rice lead the Ravens offense with 77 yards rushing and a touchdown.

The Ravens finished their season with a win over the Bengals this last weekend.

The win was basically the season in a nutshell: the Ravens did what they needed to do to win, but it wasn't pretty and it left fans feeling uneasy.

The Ravens beat the 4-12 Bengals by a score of 13-7. The Bengals, who were playing without Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson (you'll never be Ochocinco here, sorry Chad), had a chance to win the game at the end, needing a touchdown. Their drive stalled at the Ravens' 2-yard line.

Thankfully the Ravens have won the last two games they've played when their opponent had the ball with a chance to win the game. The first win came against the Saints two weeks ago. So at least they're closing out victories although you could say that they shouldn't be doing it in this fashion in the first place.

But I digress. The Ravens finished 12-4 which ties their second best season record, which came in 2000. The Ravens also beat a Carson Palmer-lead Bengals team for the first time since week 1 of the 2008 season. Thankfully it appears to be his last game as a Bengal. And with the win, the Ravens defense finished 3rd overall in points allowed and 10th in yards allowed.

But the offense has been the fans' bugaboo this season and it was again on Sunday. The offense mustered a paltry 199 yards against the Bengals defense. Flacco passed for only 125 yards and threw a pick. And the running game managed only 98 yards on the day.

Thankfully the defense held up their end of the bargain and played a solid game, forcing 5 turnovers on the day including 2 Carson Palmer interceptions. And thanks to the turnovers, the defense held the surprisingly effective Bengals offense to only one touchdown. Jerome Simpson had a big day to cap off what has been a monstrous few weeks for the former reserve WR, catching 12 balls for 123 yards and a touchdown. With the Ravens traveling to Kansas City for their first round playoff game, Dwayne Bowe must be licking his chops.

So can the Ravens beat the Chiefs? Sure...they can beat any team...as long as Cam Cameron is calling a good game plan and the offensive line can block for Flacco, who was sacked 4 times last Sunday and was the second most sacked QB in the NFL this season.

The Chiefs are a solid young team who may be a little out of their league at this point. They played a weak schedule which included the entire NFC West, where the 7-9 Seahawks won the division, and a last place schedule which included the Browns and Bills. However, they went 7-1 at home, same as the Ravens, and feature the best running game in the NFL. Matt Cassel, their protective QB, threw 27 touchdowns to only 7 picks. Their defense is solid, 11th in points allowed and 14th in yards allowed.

But like what I said about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier in the season before they came to Baltimore, I have to believe that the talent and experience on the Ravens' roster gives them a big advantage over the Chiefs, who's average age is 25.3 compared to the Ravens, of 27.3. And while those may only be 2 years, they are mostly 2 years of playoff-caliber football, in which the Ravens have gone 3-2, all on the road.

So do the Ravens have a tall order ahead of them? Of course. Whenever you go on the road in the playoffs you're facing an uphill battle. But the Ravens are familiar with playing on the road and have done well over the last 2 seasons away from home.

And how the Ravens do in the playoffs will largely determine how people view the 2010 season. All season, the Ravens were waiting to reach their potential and it never happened for a variety of reasons. Finger pointing amongst the Ravens fanbase has been a hobby this season and I'm sure it will continue into the postseason. Much of it is deserved, but at times, the fans are demonstrating why they are on the sidelines and not being paid to call the shots.

I believe the Ravens will win in Kansas City, but all bets are off if they have to travel to New England or Pittsburgh. Sure, the Ravens should have won in New England earlier this season and did win in Pittsburgh, but the Patriots are in "take no prisoners" mode after losing to the Browns in week 9 and the Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger back, who was suspended when the Ravens won in Pittsburgh earlier this season.

So it's looking like the 2010 season is headed for disappointment. But if it doesn't, it'll mean we're Super Bowl Champions. So fans should get used to that idea in the next few days.

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