The Bengals’ grind starts now, in order to make a sixth straight trip to the playoffs. Baltimore stands between Cincinnati and a much-needed victory.
When the Bengals take on the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday afternoon, there will be a familiar smell in the air. But, unfortunately, it’s not the aroma that Cincinnati fans are used to. M&T Bank Stadium will be the site of another must-win game for Marvin Lewis’ Bengals.
The Bengals are amazingly still alive in the suddenly weak AFC North. If they plan on taking the current playoff streak to six straight years, they must take care of business against the Ravens. Losing doesn’t put the final nail in the coffin. But, it does make the road a lot harder than it already is.
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How can the Bengals keep things moving forward? In the immortal words of Al Davis…Just Win Baby. Here’s a look at the plan.
The O-Line Has To Perform
There’s no doubting how bad the Bengals’ offensive line has become. Any comparisons to 2015 should be thrown out. This unit has taken a lot of heat and rightfully so. Andy Dalton has been on his back so much, the players should get him an early Christmas gift. Yes, that would be a mattress.
Giving Dalton time in the pocket was a huge key to the Bengals’ success last season. The loss of Andre Smith may have been a bigger deal than expected. Suddenly, Cedric Ogbuehi has been thrown into the mix and things aren’t working as planned. He still has a learning curve, since he’s basically fresh off the boat. But, his mistakes are wearing thin.
It’s not all on Ogbuehi. Russell Bodine has to step up. Flashes of greatness won’t get it. Bodine needs to be a consistent force or The Ginger is toast. It may be time for Andrew Whitworth to assert himself as the aging leader and demand greatness.
Get In Flacco’s Face
When the Bengals’ defense is able to get into the backfield, good things come to pass. Keeping the Ravens’ passing game at bay will help make them one-dimensional. If Joe Flacco is given all day to stand in the pocket, it’ll end up being a long day for the defenders.
Cincinnati has been the team to rattle Flacco. The Ravens’ signal-caller has struggled in his 15 games against the Bengals. Flacco has tossed 19 interceptions to 15 TDs. Hopefully, Paul Guenther and Co. will keep things simple against the Baltimore receivers. Getting physical at the line and blanket coverage will make Flacco’s job harder.
Find Success On The Ground
Sometimes the answer can be simple and right in front of your face. With the loss of A.J. Green, the Ravens will be looking to stop any semblance of a running game. Giovani Bernard was starting to have an impact, before suffering a torn ACL. This is where the coordinator bloodline of Zampese has to shine. Working Cedric Peerman and Rex Burkhead into the mix will be crucial.
Jeremy Hill is a load to tackle when he’s rested and used with imagination. Pounding the line with Hill and switching to the speedy Burkhead will open the play-action fake for Dalton and the receivers. Pulling the linebackers up will open room in the back for Tyler Boyd, and Tyler Eifert to work beneath the secondary.