<
>

Bengals' finale vs. Ravens might be send-off for Steve Smith

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals have had a lot of battles against Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. over the years.

Smith might be 37, but he hasn't lost any of his fire. And the Bengals have enjoyed sparring with him. Dre Kirkpatrick made a pointed remark at Smith earlier in the season after he and Adam Jones held Smith to four catches for 20 yards.

"Who was trash today?" Kirkpatrick asked reporters, referencing a video from the season before that showed Smith calling several members of the Bengals' secondary trash after catching 13 passes for 186 yards.

Sparring aside, it's clear there is a respect for Smith from the Bengals secondary. It will likely be an emotional game for Smith, and an extra challenge for the Bengals cornerbacks to limit him to a quiet day.

Here are six players to watch, courtesy of ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley.

OFFENSE

QB Joe Flacco: He ends a disappointing season at a place he typically struggles. In his last three games at Paul Brown Stadium -- all losses -- Flacco has thrown one touchdown and five interceptions for a 48.3 passer rating. He's only completed 55 percent of his passes there and has averaged 140.3 yards passing. Flacco eclipsed 4,000 yards passing for the first time in his nine-year career and ranks sixth in the NFL in passing yards, but his 6.5 yards per attempt is 27th in the league.

RB Kenneth Dixon: The Ravens' running back by committee has featured Dixon one week and Terrance West the next. Last Sunday, Dixon gained a season-high 57 yards rushing with some tough runs. The rookie fourth-round pick has averaged over four yards per carry in five of his last seven games and has been flashing potential with each passing week. He totaled 80 yards (49 yards rushing and 31 yards receiving) in his earlier meeting with the Bengals.

WR Steve Smith Sr.: This could be an emotional finale if this proves to be the final game of his decorated career. Smith has yet to publicly acknowledge this is his last season but informed coach John Harbaugh earlier this year that he intends to retire. Smith has had plenty of success against the Bengals over his career. In seven meetings, he has averaged 93 yards receiving and has reached the end zone four times.

DEFENSE

LB Terrell Suggs: He was a non-factor last Sunday against the Steelers. In fact, Suggs didn't have a tackle or a sack. That's the third time it's happened this season (and second time in four games). Suggs still leads the Ravens with eight sacks but hasn't had one in his last four games. This has been a tough season for Suggs, who has been playing with a torn biceps muscle since Oct. 16. Suggs twice sacked Andy Dalton in the earlier game.

LB Zachary Orr: He has recorded 55 tackles in his last six games, which are the fifth-most in the NFL over that span. Orr has also picked off passes in each of the last two games. Entering the season, there were questions about whether the Ravens could adequately replace Daryl Smith. Orr has stepped up to the challenge and is showing more range and speed than Smith.

FS Lardarius Webb: He has successfully transitioned from a cornerback to safety this season. His 41 tackles over the last six games are tied for the fourth-most in the NFL over that stretch. Safety Eric Weddle plays closer to the box, but Webb has been physical in run support. He graded out as the Ravens' top defensive player last Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus. Webb represents $5.5 million in cap savings if cut, which could mean Sunday's game will be his last with the Ravens.