After defeating their most heated rival, the Baltimore Ravens will host the Bengals, another rival that the Ravens have traditionally struggled against. The Bengals seem to always have the Ravens’ number, and give Baltimore a hard time when it matters most. In this edition of the AFC North showdown, the Ravens have a chance to extend their lead in the AFC North and push the Bengals further into irrelevancy. In order to do this, the Ravens need to win on three key battles.
Ravens Must Take Advantage of Bengals Porous Rush Defense
It is obvious to anyone that watches the Ravens that Baltimore makes its money on the ground. The Ravens rushing attack is based around a mobile quarterback, two downhill bruiser running backs, and one side-to-side speedster back. This combination that first-year Ravens offensive coordinator, Greg Roman maintains has yielded the Ravens with a statistically dominant force. In terms of total yardage, Baltimore’s offense boasts the NFL’s second-best rank, earning 192.2 ground yards per game. The Ravens should earn more than their average on Sunday, as Baltimore faces Cincinnati’s run defense, second-worst in the National Football League. Cincinnati gives up, on average 167.6 rushing yards per game. In Cincinnati’s week two matchup, the Bengals allowed the now first-ranked rushing attack of the San Francisco 49ers to rush for 259 yards. If the Ravens maintain their scheme, Baltimore could see the same level of domination on Sunday.
Ravens Pass Rush Must Capitalize on Incapable Bengals Offensive Line
The Ravens’ defensive struggles have been evident all season, but one might not have noticed is how bad the pass rush has been. Sure, Matthew Judon and Pernell McPhee make plays on the edge, but the Ravens do not consistently apply pressure or generate sacks on opposing quarterbacks. Baltimore ranks 24th in the league in sacks this year, with just nine. The Ravens have a chance this week, against the Cincinnati Bengals, to improve on this number. Bengals quarterback, Andy Dalton, has taken a beating this season, as his offensive line allowed 20 sacks so far this year. That’s an average of four sacks per game for the Bengals offense. If there ever was a time for the Ravens pass rush to step up, this is it.
Ravens Secondary Must Hold against Bengals Ninth-Ranked Passing Attack
Tyler Boyd is a name that will invoke traumatic flashbacks for most Ravens fans. On New Years’ Eve 2017, Boyd singlehandedly ended the Ravens season on a fourth-down pass from Andy Dalton taken in for a touchdown. That play eliminated the Baltimore Ravens from the playoffs, and in celebration of the rivalry, the Bengals Twitter account posted it this week, to remind Ravens fans of what Cincinnati constantly does to Baltimore. For some strange reason, the Bengals always seem to upset the Ravens with abnormal plays in the air. This game may be different though, as serial Ravens killer, A.J. Green, is not likely to play. Andy Dalton will have to rely on Tyler Boyd and the rest of the receiving corps to slice the Ravens secondary. This is very possible, even without the threat of Green. Cincinnati ranks ninth in the National Football League in passing yards per game, with a game average of 258.0. The Ravens, on average, give up 280.0 yards per game, making Baltimore the fifth-worst passing defense in the league.
After Tony Jefferson’s knee injury, the Ravens need to find a way to replace strong safety. Baltimore will likely play both third-year safety Chuck Clark, and second-year safety, DeShon Elliot in an alternating role, but Clark has received high praise from the coaching staff. Clark will probably take the most reps, and the Ravens will need him to perform well against the better-than-average Bengals passing attack.
Lamar Jackson played very poorly in last week’s win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The second-year quarterback failed to make good decisions, threw inaccurate passes, and put the Ravens in numerous holes with poor plays. Jackson needs to step back up and become the quarterback we saw earlier in the season.
Josh Bynes played well in his first game back with the Ravens, but the inside linebacker will need to take over a larger role in Sunday’s game against the Bengals. Patrick Onwuasor is moving back to be the will linebacker, but may not even play in Sunday’s game. Bynes will need to hold the fort down in only his second game back with the Ravens.
The Ravens should have no problem running all over the Bengals defense, but Baltimore’s offense will fail to stop Tyler Boyd and the passing attack from racking up the points.