Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 1/1/12

Despite being in one of the toughest division in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens found a way to sweep the AFC North and claim their first AFC North title since 2006, with a 24-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Baltimore clinched the 2 seed in the AFC since the New England Patriots defeated the Bills, but the Ravens will have a first-round bye, as well as a guaranteed home playoff game. The home playoff game guarantee was huge for the Ravens to obtain because they are an astonishing 8-0 this season at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Since the Broncos and Jets fell short of victory this Sunday, the Bengals still find themselves getting the last wild card spot despite losing to the Ravens.

Joe Flacco finished the game only throwing 19 passes but he completed 15 of them for 130-yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. If the Ravens want to run the table come playoff time this is the type of football they should be playing. Less Joe Flacco, more Ray Rice.

Rice put on a clinic, as he split through the Bengals defense on the fourth play of the game running the rock 70-yards to the end zone. The superstar running back put up 191-yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns against the leagues 5th best rushing defense. Rice’s second touchdown came on a 51-yard run right through the heart of the Bengals defense late in the 4th quarter.

Ray Rice leads Baltimore to their first AFC North title in 5 years

Baltimore got back to their roots this Sunday against the Bengals, and if they want to do damage in the playoffs this is the type of football that they will need to play to be successful. The Ravens should run the offense through Ray Rice and build the passing attack off of his success.

On the defensive side of the ball, Ray Lewis and Jameel McClain led the team in tackles with 7 each. Ray Lewis looks like he is adjusting nicely back into the defense after missing substantial time with a turf toe injury. Terrell Suggs added another sack to end the regular with an astonishing 14 on the season. The secondary performed much better this Sunday, as they only allowed rookie phenom A.J. Green to get 26-yards on two catches.

Cincinnati has mixed emotions after the loss Sunday to the Ravens. Of course they would have liked to beat their division foe at home to end the regular season, but who expected them to even be in the position that they are in now? Coming into the season, many thought that the Bengals would be one of the worst teams in the NFL. They were in complete rebuilding mode, but the rookies A.J. Green and Andy Dalton came in and immediately made an impact on this team. The young Bengals team found a way to get into post season play, and even though they lost, they still have as good a shot as anyone in the playoffs to hoist the Lombardy Trophy.

The Bengals kick of their Super Bowl run in Houston to take on the Texans who already defeated the Bengals 20-19 earlier in the season.

 

 

 

 

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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