CINCINNATI (AP) — After an upsetting week for the Bengals and teams around the NFL, Cincinnati and the Baltimore Ravens must figure out how to compartmentalize their emotions enough to play a game that still matters in the AFC playoff picture.
The Bengals were hosting Buffalo on Monday night when Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after tackling Cincinnati receiver Tee Higgins. As the crowd and teams looked on in horrified silence, medical personnel performed CPR, got Hamlin’s heart started again and rushed him to a hospital. The NFL suspended the game.
There was a glimmer of good news on Thursday morning when the Bills announced that Hamlin has shown “remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours.”
Players were left to process the horrifying scene as they began preparations for a game that will be important for playoff seeding. The NFL’s decision not to resume the Bills-Bengals game means Cincinnati (11-4) will win the AFC North. Baltimore (10-6) is 1 1/2 games behind.
Both teams have already clinched playoff spots but could improve their seeding with victories and help from other teams.
“You can do two things at once,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said after spending most his Wednesday news conference recounting Monday night’s circumstances. “You can prepare for a football game on Sunday, and you can still support Damar and support those who knew him and are dealing with some emotional stuff during this time. So those resources are available, and our guys know that.”
Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said the week has been unsettling.
“We came in Tuesday when we had meetings, and there was just something that didn’t feel right about being there and doing that,” Andrews said. “Again, there’s nothing that we can really do but come in here and do our jobs and pray. Everything else we can’t control.”
The Ravens likely will be without Lamar Jackson again. The star quarterback has missed four straight games after suffering a knee injury on Dec. 4 against the Broncos. Since then, the Ravens are 2-2 behind backup Tyler Huntley. Jackson hasn’t practiced since he got hurt.
With Jackson healthy, the Ravens beat the Bengals 19-17 on Oct. 9. The defending AFC champion Bengals are 9-1 since that loss, including the last seven in a row.
“They’re the same, but they’re better than they were then,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said of the Bengals. “They’ve continued to improve. It’s the mark of a good team.”
ONE AT A TIME
Speaking before The Associated Press reported the NFL’s decision not to resume the Bills game, Taylor said he wasn’t worried about that issue. There’s a chance Cincinnati and Buffalo could meet again in the playoffs.
“What we’re doing as a team right now is we have to move forward to Baltimore,” Taylor said. “We’ll let those decisions take place among those who want to make them. All that is really in front of us right now is to get ready for Baltimore on Sunday.”
The Ravens have the No. 2 red zone defense in the NFL based on touchdown percentage, along with the No. 28 red zone offense. In the past five games, Baltimore and its opponents have combined for 21 field goals and only eight TDs.
In the Week 5 win, the Ravens prevailed with a touchdown and four field goals.
ON A ROLL
When Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins came back from a knee injury earlier this season, he wasn’t very effective. Then he took some more time off and had a procedure that appears to have helped dramatically.
Since returning in Week 14, he’s rushed for 397 yards, the most in the league. He has 13 runs of 10-plus yards in that span.
The touchdown pass Joe Burrow threw to Tyler Boyd on the first series of Monday night’s game doesn’t count, so the Cincinnati quarterback still has 34 TD passes this season, which ties his total from last year and is second most in the NFL. He’s not likely to catch Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, who leads the league with 40.