The Bengals take on the Ravens in the regular-season finale on Sunday at Paycor Stadium. The game airs at 1 p.m. on CBS. Here are five things to watch:
1. Bengals load up against elite run game
The Bengals' defensive front faces a Ravens rushing attack that ranks second in the NFL with 163.1 yards per game. Baltimore has posted 100 or more yards rushing in every game since Week 1, including three times topping 200. Conversely, Cincinnati ranks fifth in rushing yards per game allowed this season, yielding an average of just 101.9, and has held its last three opponents under the century mark.
Lou Anarumo's unit has stepped up to the challenge against top-10 rushing teams thus far, limiting Atlanta (third), Cleveland (sixth) and Dallas (seventh) well below their season averages. But Baltimore's 155 yards on the ground in Week 5 played a major role in its home win over the Bengals, and to avoid suffering a season sweep, Cincinnati will be tasked with keeping a potent run game in check.
2. Burrow nears team records
Joe Burrow enters Week 18 within reach of the Bengals single-season records for touchdown passes and passing yards. His 34 passing scores through 15 games tie his own mark set in 2021, and with one on Sunday he would also extend his streak of consecutive games with a TD pass to 23 — the longest such streak in team history and longest active in the NFL.
What may be more difficult to achieve for Burrow is the passing yardage total. He has thrown for 4,260 yards this season, 351 shy of his own team record of 4,611 (also set last year). That number is certainly not out of reach, however, as the Pro Bowler has recorded 351 or more yards through the air seven times in his career and will be facing a Ravens secondary that ranks 24th in the NFL against the pass. The last time Burrow went up against Baltimore at home— Week 16 of 2021 — he threw for a Bengals-record 525 yards, which also marked the fourth-highest total in a game in league history.
3. Hubbard approaches career highs
Sam Hubbard, who missed the Week 16 contest at New England with a calf injury, is slated to make his return to the lineup against Baltimore. Though having played in only 14 games, the Cincinnati native is two sacks and one tackle for loss shy of his career highs. Hubbard leads the Bengals this season in both categories, logging 6.5 sacks — with three coming in his last four appearances — and 11 TFLs. Though he has proven himself as one of the team's most versatile players with the ability to spy on a quarterback or drop in coverage, Hubbard wreaking havoc in the backfield, and possibly matching those career marks, would give the defense a needed boost.
4. The Chase is on for 1K
Ja'Marr Chase heads into the regular-season finale just 40 receiving yards short of 1,000. He has 40 or more yards in each of his last eight games played, and by doing so again he would join A.J. Green (2011-12) as the only players in team history with consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to begin their career.
Chase can also his teammate Tee Higgins in the 1K club, as Higgins through 15 games this season has 1,022 receiving yards. Should Chase reach the milestone, it would mark the fourth time in Bengals history in which the team had multiple 1,000-yard receivers. Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh did it twice, in 2006 and '07, before Chase and Higgins accomplished the feat last season. Chase and Higgins traded explosive performances against the Ravens in 2021, with Chase netting 201 yards at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 7 and Higgins posting a career-high 194 at home in Week 16.
5. O-line continues to shine
Though the absence of right tackle La'el Collins is difficult to replace, Joe Burrow and Zac Taylor have emphasized the trust they have in the depth along the offensive line. Hakeem Adeniji started at that slot on Monday night and figures to do so again, and if that unit can maintain its recent level of play, Burrow will have all the time he needs to dissect the Baltimore secondary. That task is easier said than done, however, as the Ravens have posted the fifth-most sacks in the league this season (46).
The O-line's improved continuity has perfectly coincided with the team's seven-game winning streak. Cincinnati allowed five sacks in the Week 8 loss at Cleveland, but has given up no more than two since then. The Bengals' 42 sacks given up this season are their fewest since 2018 (37).