The Baltimore Ravens face the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1st of 2 meetings this season. This is a crucial AFC North match-up for both teams, who are fighting for a playoff spot.
After a disappointing loss to the Cowboys last Sunday, the Ravens are looking to get back on track.A Steelers win on Thanksgiving means that the Ravens must win if they want to stay on top of the AFC North. These last 6 games are really going to show the Raven’s true colors. They control their own destiny to the playoffs and have little room for error the rest of the season. Win-out and the playoffs are guaranteed. Lost 1 or 2 games and they risk missing the playoffs for the 2nd straight year.
Today they come up against a struggling Cincinnati Bengals team. The Bengals are coming off of a disappointing 16-12 loss to the Bills. The game featured two key injuries to wide receiver A.J. Green (hamstring) and running back Giovani Bernard. They had high expectations coming into this season, but have not played up to those standards. There is still a chance that the Bengals could make a playoff run. With a win against the Ravens tomorrow they could move within two games of first place. The AFC North is having a down year and the Bengals could still make a late season push.
The all-time season series between these two teams is as close as it gets. The series is tied at 20-20, but the Bengals have been on the winning side as of recently. They have owned the Ravens and have won 6 out of the last 7 meetings. If any team knows how to beat the Ravens it is the Bengals. The Ravens are lucky that they will not be coming up against A.J. Green. He has had some of his best games against them. Last season Green went for a career high 227 receiving yards and caught 2 touchdowns. He has been the thorn in the Raven’s side to say the least.
4 out of the last 5 have been decided by one score or less and we can expect another close battle today. No matter what either team’s record is, there is always a rivalry atmosphere. These teams meet again in January and Cincinnati is never an easy place to play. The Ravens must take advantage of the home crowd tomorrow and pull out a win.
Key Match-Up: Bengals receivers vs. Ravens secondary
There is no doubt that A.J. Green is Andy Dalton’s favorite target. As stated before, Green has demolished the Raven’s in previous meetings. A torn hamstring will keep him out of today’s game and possibly their next meeting. With Green absent from the line-up, it is going to be interesting to see how the Ravens secondary matches up with the Bengals receivers.
The absence of cornerback Jimmy Smith hurt the Ravens tremendously last Sunday. Cowboy’s wide receiver Dez Bryant had a field day against Tavon Young and Shareece Wright. Smith is doubtful for today’s game with a back injury back injury and my guess is that he probably will not play. If that is the case, the Ravens secondary will still gave plenty of players to worry about. Bengals receivers Brand LaFell and Tyler Boyd are both still viable options and could prove to be trouble.
The Ravens defense has played solid most of the season and they must buckle down during this last stretch of the season. They are the glue that has held together the team.
The Ravens offense came out hot against the Cowboy’s in the 1st half, but tapered off. Running backs Terrance West and Kennith Dixon had success and then did not see as many touches in the 2nd half. If the Ravens want to win this game they are going to need to kick-start the offense.
If I had a dollar for how many times I said the Ravens offense was inconsistent I would be a very rich man. They have looked great at times in the beginning on games, but seem to die-off shortly after. The lack of a big-play receiver hurts and once they get behind it is hard to commit to the run. Offense coordinator Marty Mornhinweg needs to come out pounding the ball against the Bengals defense. The tandem of West and Dixon can work if they see consistent touches.
There is no question that Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wallace will come to play, but the rest of the receivers are in question. Breshad Perriman must improve from a quiet game and the Ravens need to figure out their tight-end situation. Without Crockett Gillmore likely out for a 4th straight game, Nick Boyle will make the start. He is coming off of a 10 game suspension and will provide a fresh target for Flacco in the passing game. If the offense can get going early then the Ravens will be in a position to win.
If you watched last Sunday’s game, you know what I mean here. The Ravens came out firing against Dak Prescott and put him in an uncomfortable position. He seemed very rattled in the first half, which led to sacks and overthrows. Once he settled down in the pocket, he killed the Ravens defense. The Cowboy’s offensive line was able to keep the Ravens away from Prescott and they paid for it.
Luckily for the Ravens, Andy Dalton is not Dak Prescott. He is a good quarterback, but is not the dual threat that Prescott is. Dalton is prone to making mistakes and the defensive line needs to make him uncomfortable early. Without Green and Bernard, the Bengals two best offensive weapons, it is likely that the offense will struggle. The Ravens defensive line must take advantage of that and force Dalton to make mistakes.
A return of defensive end Elvis Dumervil would be huge. The Dumervil and Suggs pass rush combo has proved to be deadly in recent seasons. I expect those two along with Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams to get after the quarterback.
The Ravens are come off a game that was closer than the score indicated. the absence of Green and Bernard is going to be too much for the Bengals. I think the Ravens will come out with energy at home and get back in the win column.