We’re on to Cincinnati!
We’ve finally made it. The Baltimore Ravens opened their season with a 20-0 victory over the Bengals on September 10, 2017. Now, four months later, the Ravens and Bengals are set for a rematch to close the season. The trajectories of these two teams could not have been more different. The Bengals lost their first three games and limped their way to a 6-9 record. The Ravens won their first two games and were able to fly high to a 9-6 record, and a chance at a playoff berth. The Ravens have a chance to punch their ticket to the playoffs today, with a win over Cincinnati. The Ravens can still get to the postseason without a victory, but the straightest path runs through Cincinnati. The Bengals have always been a thorn in the Ravens’ side and will look to play spoiler. To prevent this, Baltimore must dominate in three key areas.
Marlon Humphrey v.s. A.J. Green
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has a reputation for being a Raven killer. Throughout the years, Green has made countless plays against Baltimore, many to change the outcome of the game. Rookie Marlon Humphrey will be the cornerback tasked with covering Green. Humphrey got some one on one time with Green in their first matchup, so he should know what to expect. In that first game, however, Green was primarily covered by Jimmy Smith. Smith is no longer able to play for Baltimore, by virtue of his torn Achilles he sustained earlier this month. Humphrey will have to fill Smith’s shoes, and goe toe to toe with Green. If Humphrey can slow, if not shut down Green, it will tremendously increase Baltimore’s chances of winning.
Alex Collins v.s. Bengals Run Defense
The Bengals currently have the second-worst run defense unit in the NFL. Cincinnati allows on average of 128.5 yards per rush attempt. Alex Collins and the Baltimore Ravens need to take advantage of this. Keeping the ball on the ground will give the Ravens a steady flow of yards, and will help the Ravens control the clock later in the game. The rushing attack is also key to the Ravens because it enables Joe Flacco to have a sellable play action strategy. If Baltimore can get moving on the ground against Cincinnati, the Ravens will greatly improve their odds of winning. If the Bengals prevent this, however, the Ravens will be in for a dogfight, that might end in disbelief.
Ravens Pass Rush v.s. Andy Dalton
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has always given the Ravens a hard time. To prevent Dalton from torching the Ravens defense, Baltimore can greet him with a bull rush pass rush. Keeping Andy Dalton under pressure is a key to winning the game. If Dalton does not have enough time to find Green down the field, Cincinnati’s verticle threat will be neutralized. Sacking Dalton will also help to kill drives that could threaten Baltimore’s playoff hopes. The Ravens will likely send Terrell Suggs and company after Dalton on numerous blitzes. If they can get to number 14, the Ravens will have a great chance at winning the football game.
Ravens Game Predictions
If the Baltimore Ravens can do most of the things listed above, they will win the game. Here are my predictions of what will happen tonight.
- Joe Flacco throws for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
- Mike Wallace is the leading receiver with 63 yards and one touchdown.
- Alex Collins runs for 105 yards, getting to 1,000 yards on the season.
- Matthew Judon sacks Andy Dalton twice.
- Ravens win with a game sealing interception by Marlon Humphrey.
FINAL SCORE: 24 – 17, Ravens over Bengals