NFL Playoffs: Previewing the Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals matchup

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Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

The Ravens and Bengals will run back their Week 18 game with a lot more on the line.

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The key question: Will Lamar Jackson return to action from his knee injury? He didn’t practice Wednesday and Ravens coach John Harbaugh’s only comment was "No update." If Jackson is a no-go, Tyler Huntley should be able to return from a shoulder injury, so it won’t be Anthony Brown starting at QB as he did in Week 18.

Regardless of the opposing quarterback, the Bengals have been displaying their true stripes for a while now. This is a top-five team in Expected Points Added per play on offense and defense for the season and they’ve lost just twice since Week 2. Three of Cincinnati’s four losses have been by a combined eight points, though one of those defeats was at the hands of the Ravens in Week 5.

From Week 1 through Week 12, the Ravens offense was seventh in EPA per play; from Week 13 through Week 18, they were 26th. The difference that Jackson makes is almost immeasurable, especially when taking on one of the league’s elite teams. Betting this game before knowing Jackson’s status is tricky. Even then, Jackson would be shaking off five weeks’ worth of rust and not practicing. Would he be enough of a difference-maker when the Bengals look capable of repeating as AFC champs?

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