The tenth week of the NFL season officially brings this football season past its halfway point. While football fans everywhere begin to lament the fact that there will be less ahead than behind in the coming weeks, the Ravens relish in it. Now is the time of year that Baltimore gets to face its most important matchups, second shots at division rivals. The Ravens are squarely within the playoff hunt and are being talked about as one of the best teams in the National Football League. To finish as a division winner, the Ravens must take control of the AFC North, first by winning most matchups against division rivals. On Sunday, the Ravens will have the chance to defeat the Bengals a second time this season.
Here is what the Ravens must do to win:
Ravens Defense Must Confuse and Pressure Ryan Finley
How many times do the Ravens need to teach this lesson? The Ravens are historically good against rookie quarterbacks. Baltimore prides itself on defense and uses every opportunity to confuse rookie quarterbacks with foreign coverage concepts, innovative blitzes, and unseen packages. This will be a crucial asset to Sunday’s game. Ryan Finley has no experience as a starting quarterback in the National Football League, and the Ravens must take advantage of his inexperience. Baltimore must also pressure Finley in the pocket. The easiest way to win a game against a young quarterback is to make him panic. A vicious Ravens pass rush will force Finley to make quick decisions, and inevitably the wrong ones.
Ravens Must Prevent Bengals from Revitalizing the Ground Game
If the Ravens are successful in turning Ryan Finley into a liability, first-year Bengals’ head coach, Zac Taylor will have no choice but to emphasize the run game. Even if Taylor needs to, will be difficult to rely on Joe Mixon and the ground and pound squad. Joe Mixon is stuck in a disappointing and unproductive year. The 2019 version of Joe Mixon only accumulated 320 yards on 101 attempts so far. His dismal 3.2 yards per rushing attempt in 2019 is 1.7 yards less than his 4.9 yards per attempt in 2018. The decrease in production is Mixon’s fault, but he cannot be blamed for all of his failures. Week in and week out, the Bengals offensive line remains among the worst in the league. Mixon has little room to run, and the Ravens must exploit that. Baltimore must clog his rushing lanes, and force a total shutdown of the Cincinnati ground attack.
Ravens Offense Must Capitalize on All Opportunities
Baltimore defeated Cincinnati in the first matchup between these two teams earlier this year. Although the Ravens won, the victory was unconvincing. The Ravens let the Bengals hang around all game long. This time, the Ravens cannot be as sloppy as they were in the first meeting. Baltimore must capitalize on all opportunities, whether that be scoring after a turnover, forcing a turnover on downs on fourth down, or just simply winning the matchups the team should. If Baltimore allows Cincinnati to keep the game close into the fourth quarter, the Bengals could secure the upset.
In Baltimore’s last matchup with the Bengals, Cincinnati exploited the struggling Ravens secondary with unknown receivers like Alex Erickson and Auden Tate. Cincinnati’s strategy, to pick on Maurice Canady, will not be available in the second matchup. Baltimore revamped the secondary by acquiring Marcus Peters from the Los Angeles Rams and seeing the return of Jimmy Smith. Cincinnati is likely to target Peters in this secondary, as he has a reputation for being reckless and careless at times. Peters must lock down whatever receiver is put on him.
Mark Andrews is not the same dominant player that he was early in the season. In Baltimore’s last two games, Andrews has only caught four of eleven passes for just 60 yards. Andrews’ last big game came in Week Six against Cincinnati. Andrews caught six of eight for 99 yards that game. Andrews must return to his dominant form if the Ravens are going to steamroll the winless Bengals.
The Baltimore Ravens will need to apply pocket pressure to Ryan Finley to take advantage of the rookie quarterback’s inexperience. Matthew Judon will be in the backfield quick, but the Ravens cannot succeed with just one edge rusher doing his job. The rookie, Jaylon Ferguson, must grow up quickly and find a way to pressure the quarterback and secure the first sack of his professional career.
Baltimore will demolish the Cincinnati Bengals in a route that will erase any doubt leftover from the two teams’ meeting earlier this year. Baltimore’s ground game will dominate the time of possession, while the Ravens defense will continue to force fruitless drives.