The Bengals ended a five-game losing streak when they beat Pittsburgh 27-17 in Week 15 on Monday Night Football as 14.5-point underdogs, and they followed that with a 37-31 win over the Houston Texans on the road Sunday as 7.5-point underdogs.
“The thing that’s very important is that we’re playing very good football in December, which that’ll come up within these next couple years,” said Bates, who has one more year left on his rookie contract after this season. “I think in December we’re going to be playing for something. It’ll be very important for us to put together a primetime game on Monday night and then go on the road on a short week and get a road win. … We haven’t had a lot of road games won the past three years, my first three years. So, it was really nice to kind of put these two wins together. Hopefully, we can end this season the right way.”
The Ravens enter this game on a four-game winning streak and already beat the Bengals 27-3 earlier this season when they still had Joe Burrow as their quarterback. Lamar Jackson managed just 3 yards rushing against them, but the Bengals still gave up 160 yards on the ground and the offense turned the ball over three times.
Cincinnati is hoping to take lessons learned from that game and the defense’s struggles stopping Deshaun Watson and David Johnson last week in the second half at Houston will help prepare the team for a better showing against the Ravens this time.
“I don’t think whether we win or lose this next game will determine how far or how close we are, but it’ll be the right step to continue the momentum that we want to build for the next year,” Bates said. “Like I said, Baltimore not going to the playoffs, us beating them and getting them out of there, that would be pretty cool, but it would be nice to end the season on the right note with a group of guys that haven’t had a lot of success, but we continue to fight and play for each other. This team will never be the same. There won’t be the same guys in this building or anything like that. Just one more time, do it all together and we appreciate everybody coming to work everyday, not complaining and not doing stuff that other players would do in this situation. I’m excited for it, man. We’re ready to go one more time against Baltimore.”
Bates has been saying the last month that these final games would say a lot about the team and who wants to stay and keep trying to build. For him and many others, it’s been rewarding to see the team come together despite the record and slew of injuries to top players on both sides of the ball.
Last year, the Miami Dolphins won two of their last three games and carried that momentum into this season. The Dolphins now are in the thick of the playoff race. Perhaps a strong finish for the Bengals could do the same thing for them in 2021.
“I think it’s important to finish the season strong,” Taylor said. “I can envision great things in store for us in the future. We’ve got to dial in on this Sunday. We can’t look beyond that. It’s a big game for us - a divisional game. They got the better of us this year on the road, so our guys are going to be focused here this last week. We can talk beyond that after the game, but right now our focus is on the Baltimore Ravens and putting our best foot forward there.”
Ravens at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7