1. Ravens Run Defense Must Stop Cedric Benson
Cedric Benson is having a sneaky good season, he is on pace for 1,468 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. On Sunday he will be going up against the NFL’s best run defense, the Ravens are only allowing 59.1 yards per game on the ground in 2009. For the Bengals to have any shot at a win they must establish Benson and have him create play action options for Carson Palmer and the aerial attack.
Interesting Fact: The Ravens defense has yet to allow a run of twenty yards or longer on 91 attempts this season.
2. The Ravens Must Contain Antwan Odom
The Bengals defensive end is tied for the NFL lead with eight sacks in just four games. To make matters worse the Ravens may be without starting left tackle Jared Gaither due to a neck injury. If rookie Michael Oher gets the start he is going to have his hands full trying to protect Joe Flacco’s blindside.
3. The Ravens Must Establish Balance on Offense
After running the ball just seventeen times last week the Ravens must do a better job of using the run to setup the pass. The Ravens should have the opportunity to catch an aggressive, attacking defense off guard with a few well timed draw and screen plays. The combination of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee has been as good as anyone this season and must be used more for the Ravens offense to continue its early season roll.
4. It’s Time For a BIG Ed Reed Play
Ed Reed has one interception this season and hasn’t been as big of a factor as the Ravens have come to expect from him, but this week will be his breakout week. If the Ravens shutdown the Bengals ground game as expected Carson Palmer is susceptible to making the big mistake. Palmer hasn’t been lighting it up this season throwing five picks and completing fewer than 58% of his passes. If Palmer is forced to chuck the rock over forty times look for Ed Reed to come up with one of his patented game changing interceptions.
5. Special Teams Must be Special
Last week Chris Carr put the Ravens in an immediate hole by fumbling the opening kickoff against the Patriots. Carr has continued to hurt the Ravens by giving the offense poor field position on kickoffs and has yet to change field position with any type of big punt return. I would love to see rookie Lardarius Webb get a shot at returning kicks…he couldn’t be any less effective than Carr.
Overall the Ravens have more talent and should be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball Sunday. I see a big game for Willis McGahee and a 31-17 win for the purple and black.