Bengals at Ravens: Preview, Predictions, and More
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pittsburgh Steelers took care of business on Thanksgiving by dispatching the Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts 28-7 behind three touchdowns from Antonio Brown. Both the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals sit behind the Steelers in the AFC North as they face off in Week 12 on Sunday afternoon.
At 3-6-1, the Bengals have quietly been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL. Now that Giovani Bernard is out for the season and A.J. Green is dealing with a multi-week hamstring injury, the Bengals are in big trouble in the race for the playoffs.
This game is of the utmost importance between both of these middling teams and the Ravens have a great chance to go 3-for-3 in the division post-bye. They defeated both the Steelers and Cleveland Browns before dropping a tough loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Now the 5-5 Ravens suddenly look competitive. Remember, this is a team that lost four-straight before the bye and fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.
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The Ravens are 24th in the league in scoring and still haven’t figured things out, but the Bengals have looked even worse on offense in back-to-back weeks. Cincinnati could only muster 12 points against the Buffalo Bills last week, and it could get worse this week before it gets better.
Keys to Victory
Dennis Pitta leads the Ravens in receptions, but it is worth noting he hasn’t put up 60 receiving yards in a game since blowing up for 102 in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns. Baltimore is facing a defense that struggles with covering tight ends. The Ravens best player on offense has undoubtedly been Steve Smith Sr.
This week, the Ravens should hope that their best player on offense is a running back, because Cincinnati allows 4.5 yards per carry. They own one of the NFL’s least effective run defenses and Baltimore must take advantage of that.
The Ravens have a super-sleeper Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Eric Weddle, who is working on another elite season. Weddle has been covering up for mistakes from the cornerbacks, and both Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd must help Andy Dalton by challenging these corners.
Cincinnati will find it difficult to run the ball against the Ravens run defense, which is the best in the NFL. If the Bengals are to win this game, they need their wide receivers to step up with Green out. If Green played, Dalton would have asked him to carry the day. He can’t do that this week, and it’s unlikely Hill, who has struggled since a monster Week 7, will have a big game.
Point Spread: Baltimore -4
Moneyline: Baltimore -190, Cincinnati +165
Quietly, the Ravens have looked like a team capable of beating mediocre foes like the Bengals. Joe Flacco has finally looked accurate, posting back-to-back games with a QB Rating over 90.0 for the first time this season. In fact, Flacco hadn’t posted a QB Rating of 90.0 since Week 1.
Meanwhile, the Bengals are falling apart at the seams and I just don’t think they can overcome the Green and Bernard injuries this week. The Ravens defense is too stout up front, and veteran safeties Weddle and Lardarius Webb have been good enough to make up for a couple of torchable cornerbacks. Baltimore is making the right adjustments and they are on a positive trend.
Pick: Baltimore Ravens: 24, Cincinnati Bengals: 10