Fearless Prediction: Bengals (3-1) at Ravens (3-1)

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Game Snap;shot

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Sportexe Momentum
TV: CBS (Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker)
SERIES: 27th regular-season meeting. Ravens lead series 15-11. The Ravens have lost six of their past nine to the Cincinnati Bengals, but they swept their AFC North rival last season. The combined score last season was 51-13. In their last meeting, the Ravens routed the host Bengals, 34-3. Their offense pounded the ball with running back Le'Ron McClain and attacked downfield with Joe Flacco's big arm, totaling 451 yards. Their defense manhandled the NFL's worst offense, holding Cincinnati to 155 yards (61 off the team record) and six first downs (the second fewest in team history). Ravens coach John Harbaugh called it a "methodical win." Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said it was like getting their "head kicked in." KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bengals' offense has been highly inconsistent within games. The key will be for QB Carson Palmer to start connecting on more deep passes with defenses increasingly focusing on RB Cedric Benson. While the Ravens do have 10 sacks, when they don't get to the passer the secondary has been vulnerable to plays over the top. Cincinnati will still stress the run, but Palmer needs to step up if Baltimore's run defense is dialed in. QB Joe Flacco threw a career-high 47 passes last Sunday, but look for RBs Ray Rice and Willis McGahee to lead the Ravens' offense this week. The Bengals' run defense is sporadic (248 combined yards allowed the past two games), and Baltimore piled up 229 and 147 rushing yards in last year's meetings. Rookie OT Michael Oher is likely to move to the left side to replace Jared Gaither. FAST FACTS: The Ravens have allowed an average of 10.7 points in their past 10 home games. ... Cincinnati (17) and Baltimore (15) rank first and third in the NFL in most receptions allowed of 20-plus yards.

Personnel News

  • The Bengals tried out Bryan Pittman and Clark Harris on Thursday as they assess their options for a long snapper. Brad St. Louis has had four bad snaps this season.
  • LB Rey Maualuga returned to practice Thursday. He is still bothered by a sprained MCL in his left knee but should be ready to play Sunday.
  • LB Rashad Jeanty missed a second consecutive day of practice due to a dislocated finger. He is not expected to play Sunday.
  • CB Geoffrey Pope was waived. The second-year player appeared in four games with the Bengals, mainly on special teams. LB Dan Skuta was promoted from the practice squad.
  • SS Roy Williams, who has a bruised forearm, had full participation in practice. It appears likely he will play Sunday. Ravens:
  • OT Jared Gaither missed his second consecutive day of practice with a neck injury. He and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said there is a good chance that Gaither would play Sunday, but Gaither can barely move his head. If Gaither is sidelined, rookie first-round pick Michael Oher would move from right to left tackle.
  • OT Michael Oher could move from right to left tackle if Jared Gaither is sidelined with a neck injury. Oher played left tackle at the University of Mississippi.
  • WR Demetrius Williams was sidelined a second consecutive day with an illness. He is the fourth wide receiver and barely plays when he is healthy.
  • OLB Jarret Johnson was limited in practice after not practicing Wednesday. He has been dealing with the same shoulder injury for the past three weeks. He has yet to miss a game because of the ailment.
  • WR Derrick Mason returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after missing Wednesday. He hurt his neck in the first quarter last Sunday but continued to play. He is expected to start this week.
  • FS Ed Reed has a knee injury, but he will start Sunday. He has battled a neck injury the entire season.

    Inside the Camps

    Bengals: The Ravens have gone 39 consecutive regular-season games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. But despite their reputation and track record of being one of the toughest teams in the league to run against, Cedric Benson wonders why the Bengals can't be the team to end the streak this Sunday. Since 1999, there have been only 18 games in which the Ravens have allowed a 100-yard rusher. The last one was by Kansas City's Larry Johnson in 2006. The Bengals have the most with three -- two by Corey Dillon and one by Rudi Johnson. "They're a good run defense, and in that sense it's going to be an awesome battle," Benson said. "Going against a defense like this is a good test of where we are. It's great to get them early in the season, but we do get them twice." Besides the run of 39, the Ravens have gone 20 straight division games without allowing a 100-yard back. Rudi Johnson was the last one to accomplish it, with 114 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 12 win in 2005 at Paul Brown Stadium. While they have struggled at times the last two weeks to establish the run, the Bengals have remained committed. It has worked to their benefit late in games. During the fourth quarter against the Steelers, Benson had four carries for 42 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown. In overtime against the Browns, he had five carries for 42 yards. "If we can get the run game moving, it lifts the entire offense as a whole," Benson said. "It didn't go the way we'd like it all to go (against Cleveland), but there were a lot of positives in there. It's not going to be every game that we are going to be able to bust out 10- to 12-yard runs, but we have to keep working at it." Benson and the Bengals found out late Thursday that their Oct. 25 game against the Bears has been moved from 1 to 4:15 p.m. EDT per the request of Fox Sports. It will mark Benson's first meeting against his former team. Ravens: In their first major switch of the regular season, the Ravens have decided to replace Chris Carr with rookie Lardarius Webb on kickoffs. It's an interesting change because the Ravens' average starting position on kickoffs has been the 26-yard line, which ranks ninth best in the NFL. "If you're a competitor and you've been doing it as long as I have and had success at it, you want to be out there," Carr said of relinquishing kick return duties. "The more things you can do, you want to do that. But at the same time, you've got to know how to be a professional, and if you're not the guy out there, you've got to be like, 'Hey, I've got to focus on what I do have. I can't sit here and pout about this and that. I've got to go out there and play 30 snaps on defense and worry about receivers and worry about this and worry about punt returns.' "You've just got to be professional and go out there and play and support your teammates and support your team." Carr ranks seventh in the AFC and 15th in the NFL with a 24.5-yard average on kick returns, but he was stripped of the football on the opening kickoff of Sunday's 27-21 loss to the Patriots, which led to a New England field goal. Webb returned just one kick against the Patriots, but it was good for 38 yards and set up the Ravens' last-gasp drive. The Bengals, Baltimore's opponent this week, have one of the league's worst kickoff coverage teams. Cincinnati has allowed teams to start at about the 30-yard line, which is third worst in the NFL. When asked about the switch, Webb was more vague about confirming it. "I don't know for sure," Webb said. "I've been working at it, but other than that, I don't know yet. So I'm not going to say something and then it doesn't really happen." Carr will remain the Ravens' primary punt returner. He is tied for 19th in the NFL with a 7-yard punt return average. Meanwhile, there could be another possible change, this one on defense. After being sidelined last Sunday with head and shoulder injuries, Tavares Gooden is expected to return against the Bengals. But there's no guarantee that the inside linebacker will return as a starter. Asked if Gooden would come back to the starting lineup, Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said Gooden, rookie Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain would all play. Gooden, a third-round pick in 2008, started the first three games, filling the void left by Bart Scott, who went to the New York Jets as a free agent. Ellerbe then played in Gooden's absence against New England and made six tackles. "It gives us the luxury where we want to have the ability to have a lot of linebackers," Mattison said. "It's a physical league, and we got to have guys that step up. I think Ellerbe did a great job in his first playing experience." PREDICTION: Ravens 23-13
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