Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dalton gang revved for Ravens

Cincinnati QB expects big push from visitors

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CINCINNATI, Ohio -- Joe Flacco and Ray Rice played only two series before heading to the Ravens' sideline. Andy Dalton and Bengals starters went until halftime before calling it a day.

Baltimore's last visit had all the indifference of a pre-season game. The Ravens and Bengals finished the 2012 regular season at Paul Brown Stadium secure in their playoff spots: the Ravens as AFC North champions, the wild-card Bengals as the No. 6 seed.

It's a lot different today as the rivals finish the regular season in Cincinnati for the third year in a row. The defending Super Bowl champion Ravens (8-7) are making a push for the final wild-card spot. The Bengals (10-5) have clinched the division but could move up to a No. 2 seed.

No sitting down for this one.

"It's not like guys are going to be coming out (of the game) and all that stuff," Dalton said. "So I think it will be helpful for us."

The Ravens will make the playoffs for the sixth season in a row if they win and either San Diego or Miami loses. Should the Ravens lose to the Bengals, they can still get into the post-season if Miami, San Diego and Pittsburgh all lose.

The Bengals will move up to the No. 2 seed -- and a first-round bye -- if they win and the Patriots lose to the Bills later today. They can drop to the No. 4 seed if they lose to the Ravens and the Colts beat the Jaguars.

A few things to watch at Paul Brown Stadium:

SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS FLOP: The Ravens are trying to avoid becoming the 15th Super Bowl champ that failed to make the playoffs the following season. They would become the sixth such title team in the last 12 years. The other championship fades: New England (failed to reach the 2002 playoffs), Tampa Bay (2003), Pittsburgh (2006), Pittsburgh (2009) and the Giants (2012).

PERFECT AT PAUL BROWN: The Bengals are trying to go 8-0 at home for only the second time in their history. They did it in 1988 at Riverfront Stadium, where they also won two playoff games and advanced to their second Super Bowl before losing to San Francisco again.

DALTON'S SURGE: Nobody has shouldered more pressure this season than the third-year quarterback, who played poorly in playoff losses at Houston each of the last two seasons. Dalton can set franchise records for touchdown passes and yards passing, giving him some momentum heading into the playoffs.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 29, 2013 B13

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