This is the end.
Though the 5-10 Ravens say they’ve viewed these last couple weeks as a springboard into the 2016 season, many fans have to be relieved to finally put one of the most disappointing years in franchise history behind them on Sunday. The calendar turning to January doesn’t erase the memory of a campaign that began with such great expectations.
As expected, Ryan Mallett will make his second straight start at quarterback, but the Ravens hope this will be the last one he needs to make after head coach John Harbaugh reiterated this week that Joe Flacco is expected to be ready for the start of training camp. Under contract through 2016, the 27-year-old Mallett can certainly put an exclamation point on his claim to be Flacco’s backup next season with a second strong performance against an AFC North rival.
Though the Ravens are playing for nothing but pride in Week 17, Cincinnati still has visions of a first-round bye in mind if they can secure a win and get some help. A Bengals win coupled with a San Diego win at Denver would give them the No. 2 seed that they covet. They could also get the second seed without beating Baltimore if the Broncos lose and Kansas City defeats Oakland at home.
The only Ravens player listed as questionable on the final injury report, reserve linebacker and special-teams standout Albert McClellan (ankle) was deactivated for the third straight game.
Rookie fourth-round cornerback Tray Walker was also inactive for the eighth time in 16 games, making it clear that this will be a big offseason for his development and standing in the organization.
Wide receiver Kamar Aiken entered Week 17 just 132 receiving yards shy of a 1,000-yard season.
The Bengals had no surprises among their inactives as starting quarterback Andy Dalton (thumb) was already ruled out at the beginning of the week. AJ McCarron will be making his third consecutive start for the AFC North champions.
These teams are meeting for the 40th time with the Ravens holding a slight 20-19 advantage and a 7-12 mark in Cincinnati. The Bengals have won four straight and five of the last six in the series and can completed a season sweep for the second consecutive year.
The Sunday forecast called for cloudy skies with temperatures reaching 37 degrees, no chance of precipitation, and winds up to 10 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.
The referee for Sunday’s game will be Carl Cheffers.
The Ravens are wearing white jerseys with black pants while Cincinnati dons its all-black look for the regular-season finale.
Here are Sunday’s inactives:
QB Jimmy Clausen
CB Tray Walker
CB Sheldon Price
CB Jumal Rolle
CB Jermaine Whitehead
LB Albert McClellan
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore
QB Andy Dalton
WR Mario Alford
G Eric Winston
TE Ryan Hewitt
DT Marcus Hardison
DT Pat Sims
DE Will Clarke
This is the end.