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Ravens fall to Bengals, will face Colts in wild-card play

With playoff spots locked up, the Cincinnati Bengals and AFC North champion Baltimore Ravens turned Sunday into a day of rest.

Cincinnati's 23-17 win over Baltimore had the vibe of a preseason snoozer, with starters being rested all over the field.

The Ravens (10-6), who'll host the Indianapolis Colts in next weekend's wild-card round, sat quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice almost immediately. The Bengals (10-6), locked into the sixth seed in the AFC, pulled quarterback Andy Dalton at halftime.

There wasn't much to fawn over, but we do have a few observations about each team heading into the playoffs:

For the Bengals ...

» They have issues on offense. Granted, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (hamstring) didn't play Sunday, but there's no clear Plan B when "deep to A.J. Green" isn't working. Dalton didn't connect with Green for the first 28 minutes and was held to 78 passing yards over two quarters. Fatal business come January.

» On the flip side, the Bengals are peaking on defense. The front four are beasts. Pass rusher Michael Johnson notched two sacks Sunday and helped the Bengalsset a single-season franchise record with 51 on the year, breaking the mark of 48, set in 2001.

» This team is better than last year's playoff entry, but there's too much pressure on the defense to score points and play near-perfect football. Cincinnati must control the pace of the game to win, a tall order against teams like the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos.

For the Ravens ...

» I can't argue with resting Flacco and Rice, but we still don't know what we'll get next week from this schizophrenic offense. A chronic issue for Baltimore.

» Probably more for next season, but backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor was intriguing -- at times electric -- in relief of Flacco. Taylor did some nice work with read-option plays and chewed up 65 yards on nine carries. Why not throw Taylor out there in some situations next week?

» Some might disagree, but I don't understand the need to shove Ray Lewis back into the lineup. We're seeing more cohesion from the Ravens' defense -- and its linebackers -- of late.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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