With the Bengals having Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and a pair of capable running backs — BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard — Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees sees plenty of personnel similarities between Cincinnati and the Detroit Lions.
The Baltimore defense hopes it can replicate the performance it turned in two weeks ago against those Lions, which included only 16 points allowed and a commendable job containing All-Pro wideout Calvin Johnson. However, it’s impossible to dismiss how explosive the Bengals offense has been at home this year as they’ve averaged 34.4 points per game at Paul Brown Stadium.
“It isn’t the scheme; it’s their personnel,” Pees said. “They’ve got one of the best wide receivers in football, they’ve got two excellent tight ends, two excellent backs, and I don’t know if anybody is watching, but those other wide receivers aren’t bad, either. The scheme is just a good scheme because they do the same thing all the time. They’re very comfortable with it, [and] they give you multiple formations.”
The Ravens held Cincinnati to 17 points in Baltimore on Nov. 10, seven of which came on a last-second 51-yard Hail Mary touchdown from quarterback Andy Dalton to Green to force overtime.
Pro Bowl announcements coming Friday
The Ravens have received no fewer than four selections to the Pro Bowl in each year of the Harbaugh era, but that streak appears to be in jeopardy with few players having great seasons individually.
Veterans such as linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and right guard Marshal Yanda are still possibilities for selection, but their inclusion would likely be based more on reputation than 2013 accomplishments. And other deserving options such as cornerback Jimmy Smith and inside linebacker Daryl Smith aren’t household names that will garner much buzz.
Kicker Justin Tucker might be the Ravens’ best bet after he was named the 2013 team MVP by the local media earlier this week. The second-year kicker has gone 35-for-38 on field goal tries this year and gained league-wide fame in connecting on a franchise-record 61-yard attempt in the final minute to beat Detroit earlier this month.
“He did have an outstanding year, and it’s not over,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “The task at hand is really the one that we’re all focusing on. Playing well this week, kicking well this week, and getting into the playoffs has been the topic at hand. We’ll evaluate all the offseason awards in the offseason. That’s really kind of the way we’re looking at it, but I’m sure he feels very good about your vote.”
Of course, the new Pro Bowl format eliminates the use of conferences for selections, and the announcements will be made at 9 p.m. on Friday night.