4. Todd Heap will always be remembered for his contributions to the organization, but the Ravens clearly knew what they were doing at the tight end position. Of the many difficult cuts general manager Ozzie Newsome needed to make to clear room under the salary cap following the end of the lockout in late July, the decision to release Heap was the easiest one despite the longtime tight end being the most decorated of the cap casualties. Second-year tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta have combined for 65 receptions, 600 receiving yards, and three touchdowns, important production considering the lack of depth at wide receiver. Dickson still drops too many passes, but the Oregon product is coming off a career day with two touchdown catches in Seattle. After recording only one catch for 1 yard in his rookie season, Pitta has arguably been the bigger surprise, emerging as a reliable third-down target for Flacco and working effectively when split out in the slot. For those wondering, Heap finished the 2002 season — his first as the Baltimore starting tight end — with 68 catches, 836 yards, and six touchdowns, and his backup Terry Jones, Jr. had 11 catches, 106 yards, and one touchdown. With seven games remaining on the schedule, it’s a safe bet the Ravens’ current duo of young tight ends will top that production.
5. Among opponents faced in the regular season, the Cincinnati Bengals have been the bane of Flacco’s existence. Flacco’s struggles against Pittsburgh in two postseason meetings are well documented, but his biggest tormentor during the regular season has been Marvin Lewis’ Bengals. In six meetings with Cincinnati in which the Ravens are 3-3, Flacco has thrown nine interceptions to four touchdown passes and has a meager 62.3 quarterback rating, his lowest mark against any team he’s played more than twice in the regular season. In prior years, Flacco struggled against defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s cover 2 scheme, but the Bengals will no longer feature talented cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph (now with the Texans) and Leon Hall, who tore his Achilles tendon against Pittsburgh this past Sunday. However, the Bengals’ 4-3 defense — a scheme that’s given the Ravens fits this season — ranks 10th against the pass and second against the run, posing a challenge to an offense that has been unable to run consistently against four-man fronts this season. If the same pattern holds true, Flacco may struggle to find success if he’s forced to throw more than 40 times again this week.