Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.
Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Spero Dedes (play-by-play) and Adam Archuleta (analyst).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).
Setting the scene: The Bengals this week wrap up their 2020 season when they host the division-rival Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati enters the contest riding a two-game winning streak after earning a 37-31 victory at Houston on Sunday.
"Winning two games in a row is really insignificant in the NFL, but it is significant for us right now," said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. "Just everybody seeing what we've been through, it means a lot to these guys and it's something to build off of. These guys deserve this win for the work they put in. The world doesn't always see it, because on Sundays we haven't always had games go the way we want. But I get to see it the six other days of the week."
Cincinnati's offense stole the show against Houston, despite playing without its leading passer (QB Joe Burrow), leading rusher (HB Joe Mixon), leading receiver (WR Tyler Boyd) and No. 1 LOT (Jonah Williams). The Bengals posted 540 total yards on the day, punted just once, did not allow a sack and had two running backs top 130 yards from scrimmage.
The performance of the day belonged Cincinnati QB Brandon Allen, who completed 78.4 percent of his passes for 371 yards and two TDs, and posted the highest passer rating (126.5) by a Bengal in more than three years (146.0 by Andy Dalton on Oct. 1, 2017 at Cleveland).
"I've had a couple bad games too," Allen joked, "so I'll take this with a grain of salt and just keep trying to get better. But I always wake up on game day with the confidence that we're going to make all the plays we need to to win the game. And I always kind of feel like I'm going to make all the throws that I need to."
Despite Cincinnati's strong offensive showing, Houston was able to keep pace on the scoreboard most of the afternoon behind strong performances from QB Deshaun Watson and RB David Johnson. Watson passed for 324 yards and three TDs, while Johnson posted 139 yards from scrimmage and two TDs (one rushing, one receiving).
But Cincinnati's defense, which allowed more than 20 points for only the second time in the last six games, weathered the storm and came up with a big play when it was needed most. Cincinnati was protecting a three-point lead with 1:35 remaining in the game when DE Sam Hubbard jarred the ball from Watson's hands. The loose ball fell into the waiting arms of DT/DE Margus Hunt, giving Cincinnati possession late. The Bengals then killed a majority of the remaining clock, tacked on a late FG and hung on for the win.
This week, the Bengals will look to play the role of 'spoiler,' as the Ravens come to town in need of a win to secure a playoff berth. And while the Ravens' playoff hopes aren't solely dependent on a win Sunday, a Bengals victory would make their path much more difficult.
Baltimore enters Sunday's matchup 10-5, after a 27-13 win over the N.Y. Giants on Sunday.
The series: Baltimore leads the series, 26-23.
Here are some series notes:
- When Cincinnati took a 23-22 series lead in Week 2 of the 2018 season, it was the first time the Bengals had led the series since after the first of two meetings of 1998, when they were up 3-2. That lead didn't last long, however, as the Ravens now have won four straight and recaptured a three-game advantage.
- The Ravens' sweep last season was their first season sweep over the Bengals since 2011. The Bengals' most recent sweep of the Ravens was in 2015.
- It hasn't been an easy series for the visiting team. The Ravens lead 17-8 in Baltimore, and the Bengals lead 15-9 in Cincinnati.
- Since 2010, 14 of the teams' 20 meetings have been one-score decisions, by eight or fewer points.
Turnover margin is key vs. Ravens: In the 37 all-time Bengals-Ravens meetings in which the turnover differential has not been even (1995-present), the team who wins the turnover battle has posted a 33-5 record.
Putting it another way, the Bengals are 14-3 against the Ravens with a plus turnover differential, and 2-19 with a minus. Looking at it from Baltimore's point of view, the Ravens are 19-2 with a plus and 3-14 with a minus.
Cincinnati leads 7-4 in games against Baltimore in which the turnover margin was even.
Records vs. Ravens: In the first Bengals-Ravens game, Nov. 3, 1996 at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, head coach Bruce Coslet's Bengals overcame what still stands today as the largest deficit (18 points) to win a road game in franchise history. The Ravens led 21-3 at halftime, but Cincinnati rallied for a 24-21 win on a 39-yard Doug Pelfrey field goal at the final gun.
The Bengals' second-biggest comeback in a road win also was at Baltimore. On Dec. 5, 2004 at M&T Bank Stadium, Cincinnati rallied from a 20-3 deficit to win 27-26.
- Shayne Graham kicked a Bengals-record seven field goals — for all of Cincinnati's scoring — in a 21-7 win at Baltimore in 2007. Graham did not have a missed attempt. The NFL record for field goals in a game is eight, set by Rob Bironas of Tennessee in 2007, and Graham is one of eight players sharing second place with seven.
- In the 2014 season opener at Baltimore, Bengals K Mike Nugent tied the NFL record for field goals in a half (five). His five in the first half gave the Bengals a 15-0 lead toward an eventual 23-16 win.
- WR A.J. Green's 227 receiving yards at Baltimore in 2015 stands as second most in a game in team history, behind only Chad Johnson's 260 vs. San Diego in 2006.
- In 2008 against the Ravens in Cincinnati, P Kyle Larson punted 11 times, which is tied with three other instances for most in a game in team history. Larson's 480 yards punting that day also stand as the third-most for a single game in Bengals history.
- The Bengals record for kickoff return yardage in a game (228 yards) was set at Baltimore by Brandon Bennett in 2002. Bennett had a 94-yarder for a TD.
Bengals complete QB trifecta: Three different starting quarterbacks have started and won games for the Bengals this season — Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen and Ryan Finley. It marks just the second season in Bengals history that as many QBs have gotten into the win column, joining the 1984 campaign when Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason and Turk Schonert all did it.
Cincinnati is one of three teams this season to have won games with at least three different quarterbacks, joining Washington and San Francisco.
Bengals-Ravens connections: Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is from Perrysburg, Ohio, played defensive back at Miami (Ohio) University, and coached at Morehead State (1988) and the University of Cincinnati ('89-96) ... Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban was on the Bengals' coaching staff from 2011-17 ...Bengals LB Josh Bynes originally was a college free agent signee of the Ravens in 2011. He was with Baltimore from 2011-14, and then again in '19 ... Ravens WR/RS Chris Moore, DE Derek Wolfe and G Parker Ehinger (practice squad) all played at the University of Cincinnati ... Ravens DT Brandon Williams attended prep school for one year at Harmony Community School in Cincinnati ... Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins and LB Malik Harrison both played at Ohio State University; Harrison is from Columbus, Ohio (Walnut Ridge High School) ... Ravens QB Lamar Jackson played at the University of Louisville ... Ravens LB L.J. Fort was on the Bengals' practice squad in 2014 ... Ravens C/G Matt Skura is from Columbus, Ohio (Worthington Kilbourne High School) ... Bengals LB Keandre Jones (practice squad) is from Olney, Md. (Good Counsel High School), and played at the University of Maryland ... Ravens TE Eli Wolf (practice squad) is from Minster, Ohio (Minster High School) ... Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons entered NFL coaching with the Ravens in 1998 ... Bengals senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner was the head coach at the University of Maryland from 1992-96 ... Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale is from Dayton, Ohio, played at Defiance College from 1981-84, and coached at Defiance ('86-87) and the University of Cincinnati ('96-98) ... Ravens pass defense coordinator Chris Hewitt played defensive back at the University of Cincinnati from 1993-96 ... Ravens assistant defensive backs coach Jesse Minter attended Mount Saint Joseph University and coached at the University of Cincinnati from 2007-09 ... Ravens senior assistant/running backs coach Craig Ver Steeg coached at the University of Cincinnati 1990-93 ... Ravens assistant special teams coach T.J. Weist coached at the University of Cincinnati from 2010-13.
A.J. on Chad's heels: Bengals WR A.J. Green has 65 career TD catches, and stands one shy of tying former Bengals WR Chad Johnson (66) for the team's all-time lead. Green took sole possession of second place in Game 10 at Washington, when his five-yard TD from QB Joe Burrow broke his tie with former WR Carl Pickens (63). He then inched closer in Game 13 vs. Dallas with a five-yard TD from QB Brandon Allen.
Green is also not far behind in the category of total TDs. His 65 TDs rank third in team history, behind Chad Johnson (66) and RB Pete Johnson (70).
Higgins tied with Cris for rookie record: Rookie WR Tee Higgins heads into this week's season finale with 67 catches, a total that is tied with former WR Cris Collinsworth for the most receptions by a Bengals rookie. Higgins needs just one more catch to break a tie with Collinsworth, who as a rookie in 1981 ranked second on the team in receptions (behind Dan Ross, 71) and helped the Bengals reach Super Bowl XVI.
Higgins already has moved ahead of a list of impressive names on the rookie receptions list, including WR A.J. Green (65), HB Giovani Bernard (56), WR Tyler Boyd (54) and WR Eddie Brown (53).
Tee chasing other rookie records: WR Tee Higgins' impressive first season has not only put him into a tie for the Bengals' rookie receptions title (see "Higgins tied with Cris for rookie record"), it also has landed him among the top rookie seasons in several other categories.
Higgins has 908 receiving yards this season, already good for the fourth-most ever by a Cincinnati rookie. WR A.J. Green (1057) holds the team's rookie record, while WR Cris Collinsworth (1009) stands as the only other Bengal to top 1000 yards in a season. In third place on the list is WR Eddie Brown (942), who Higgins needs just 34 more yards to catch. Last week at Houston, Higgins passed both Darnay Scott (866) and Isaac Curtis (843).
And while Higgins would need a heroic performance to match Isaac Curtis' 47-year old rookie record of nine receiving TDs (set in 1973), his six TD catches this year already stand tied for fifth place with WR Chris Henry. Higgins needs one more TD catch to tie Green (seven) for fourth place, and two more to equal Collinsworth and Brown (each with eight) for second.
Higgins has two 100-yard receiving games this season, and just barely missed notching his third in Game 15 at Houston (99 receiving yards). Thus, Green's rookie record of four 100-yard games is safe for another year, but Higgins could still match Curtis and Brown (each with three) for second place.
Higgins vying for rookie catch crown: Bengals rookie WR Tee Higgins, the team's second-round pick (33rd overall) and the seventh receiver taken in April's draft, has 67 catches this season. That total leads all AFC rookies, and ranks third among rookies league wide. Minnesota's Justin Jefferson (79), the 22nd overall pick, and Dallas' CeeDee Lamb (69), the 17th overall pick, are the only rookies ahead of Higgins.
Higgins' 908 receiving yards also lead all AFC rookies, and are second league wide behind Jefferson (1267). And in the category of receiving TDs by a rookie, Higgins' six scores trail only Jefferson (seven) and Pittsburgh's Chase Claypool (eight).
Bengals approaching fourth-down mark: The Bengals' offense this season has successfully converted 19 of its 27 fourth-down attempts, good for a 70.4 percentage that ranks fourth in the NFL.
The Elias Sports Bureau, whose records on fourth-down conversions go back to 1977, reports that Cincinnati's 19 fourth-down conversions this year already are tied for the second-most ever in the NFL over that time frame. The Bengals need just one more fourth-down conversion to tie the NFL record of 20, set in 1996 by the Chicago Bears. Cincinnati's 19 fourth-down conversions already easily outpace the previous team record of 14, set in 1992 (the team's records go back to '82).
Bates enjoying his best season: Bengals S Jessie Bates this season has been among the top performers — offense or defense — on the team, drawing praise from many observers as one of the top safeties in the NFL.
Bates, a 2018 second-round pick of the Bengals, has started all 15 games this season and has 99 tackles (second on team), including two for losses, along with 15 PDs (tied for fifth in NFL), three INTs and a FF. He also has two tackles on special teams, including one big one — a touchdown-saving stop on a kick return in Game 13 vs. Dallas, as Cowboys RB Tony Pollard began to break into the clear.
And opposing coaches have taken notice when watching the film. "I don't know how many interceptions Jessie Bates has, but this is a good player. I'll tell you that right now," said Dolphins head coach Brian Flores. "And I don't really care how many interceptions he has. This is a damn good player."
Added Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin: "I just can't say enough about the play of (the Bengals') safety tandem, specifically Jessie Bates. He's a good player. They are asking him to do more, and he's delivering more."
Bates, though, says his focus remains solely on winning.
"That only means so much," Bates said of the wave of recognition he's received. "I play this game to win football games. I'm a leader of this team on the defensive side, and my main goal is to win football games. I look at national media when I need to, but right now I'm just focusing on building the right environment around here."
Bates has started all 46 games of his career. With 96 tackles so far this year, he stands just four away from topping 100 in each of his first three seasons.