Ravens at Bengals -- Week 17

Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati (turf, outdoors)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. (CBS)

Spread: Bengals by 2.5

Forecast: Temperature around 30 degrees, no precipitation expected

Records: Bengals (9-6; AFC North 2-3); Ravens (10-5; AFC North 4-1)

Past results: Two most recent regular-season meetings -- Sept. 10, 2012: Ravens 44, Bengals 13; Jan. 1, 2012: Ravens 24, Bengals 16. Series record: Ravens lead, 19-14

What matters: Not much. The Bengals are already locked into the No. 6 seed of the playoffs and Baltimore can only move between the No. 3 and No. 4 seed. Both teams say they will be playing full force, though, no resting starters here. Marvin Lewis believes that with a relatively healthy team and positive stream of momentum following the breakthrough win at Pittsburgh last week, that changing the mentality of the past few weeks would do more damage than good.

"The other times we have been in this situation when you pick and choose who is going to play, I’ve had guys who are good guys all of a sudden go, 'Man, I’m hurt,coach,'" Lewis said. "I think the way is you have to go full speed ahead and cross my fingers and toes and get after it. I think in doing that, be aggressive as playcallers, in all three phases and play it like any other game.”

Who matters: The Bengals offensive line. The last two weeks this group regressed from being one of the reliable components of this team to an exposed liability entering the playoffs. They've allowed 17 sacks in the last three weeks after needing the previous 10 weeks to reach that mark.

Concerns are raised not only in pass protection, but a running game that mustered just 14 yards on 15 carries last week. Enjoying a productive day where BenJarvus Green-Ellis tops 100 yards and Dalton is left relatively untouched would provide a necessary momentum for January.

Key matchup: LB Rey Maualuga vs. RB Ray Rice. Every time these two teams get together, this matchup tells the story. Rice makes the Ravens tick and if Maualuga can lead the charge containing him, the Bengals will force Joe Flacco to beat them while contending with the tenacious pass rush. The odds would flip dramatically in the favor of the home team.

The Bengals won three in a row before the Ravens won the last four games in this series, consider Rice's numbers in victories compared with the losses.

  • Three Bengals wins: 42 carries, 204 yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 1 TD

  • Four Bengals losses: 74 carries, 440 yards, 5.9 yards per carry, 7 TDs

For defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, stopping the Ravens begins and ends with stopping Rice.

Injuries of note: The Bengals could be thin at cornerback. First-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) was placed on IR this week while Jason Allen (hamstring) and starter Terence Newman (groin) were both listed as questionable.  CB Chris Lewis-Harris was promoted from the practice squad for the game and will likely see action with Marvin Lewis not wanting to risk injury to either corner.

Inside stuff: The primary concern with QB Andy Dalton this week will be connecting on a higher percentage of deep passes. Against Pittsburgh, the Steelers stuffed the box to stop the run and dared Dalton to beat them over the top. He didn't connect on any pass longer than 25 yards on the day, missing two critical passes, one to Marvin Jones in the end zone and another off the fingertips of A.J. Green in one-on-one coverage.

"Just timing and different trajectory of the ball, putting a little more air under it and stuff like that," Dalton said on what he needs to fix. "I've definitely got to hit some (deep passes) because if I hit a couple of those in the game last week, it's a different game. So I've got to get better, I've got to improve, and it just comes with practice.”

Stat you should know: The Bengals need two sacks Sunday to break the franchise record for sacks in season (48). Geno Atkins needs one sack to move into second on the Bengals all-time list for sacks in a season. If Michael Johnson notches a half-sack they'll become the second combination of Bengals to each grab double-digit sacks in a season.

Record watch: A.J. Green has caught 160 passes in his first two NFL seasons. With nine receptions on Sunday he'll break Marques Colston's record for most receptions in a player's first two NFL seasons.

Green will also be chasing a Bengals single-season receiving yards mark. He needs 117 to pass Chad Johnson for the franchise record of 1,440 set in 2006.

Looking ahead: The Bengals will know their playoff fate by 7:30 p.m. Sunday. At this point, all that's known is they'll hit the road as the No. 6 seed against any of the four division champions.

Prediction: Bengals 20, Ravens 16

Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates on Twitter @CBSBengals.