Despite the Ravens’ poor play at times Monday night in Baltimore’s 10-9 victory over the New York Jets, the Ravens travel to Cincinnati on Sunday at 1 PM on CBS as the division-rival Bengals host the Ravens.
Meanwhile, the Bengals despite some impressive numbers in the second half of their game against the New England Patriots, were very sluggish in Foxborough at the start-one of the reasons why the AFC North Division champs from 2009 fell, 38-24.
And now the Ravens, who had some impressive numbers in the victory against the Jets( 11-0f-19 on 3rd down), will be looking to jump ahead in the AFC North race by kicking the Bengals when they’re down.
The Bengals went undefeated in 2009 in a tough AFC North division (6-0), with wins over the Ravens on Oct 11 in Baltimore (17-14) and in Cincinnati (17-7) on November 8th.
Drama also surrounded the Bengals receivers against New England; as Chad OchoCinco and Terrell Owens both left the field early at the end of the first half before a Hail-Mary shot that slot receiver Jordan Shipley had to come down with.
Running back Cedric Benson rebounded with a late touchdown in the Patriots’ blowout, but he also lost a fumble and struggled at times against an average New England rush defense, averaging only 2.9 YPC on 15 carries(43 yards).
Baltimore would hope that they see the Benson of Week 1 as opposed to the Benson of last year, who finished with 1251 yards on a comeback season with Cincinnati and shredded the Ravens in 237 yards in two games last year.
In their first match up in Baltimore, Benson became the first opposing running back to top the 100 yard mark in 40 games. He did it again later in the second Bengals victory, as did Adrian Peterson in the Ravens 33-31 loss to the Vikings on October 18th.
And with the Ravens on a short week, Baltimore could be in line to either ride the momentum from Monday’s win, or they could be in a position to struggle after a physical beating from the Jets and get the Bengals’ confidence back up and get guys like OchoCinco and Owens talking again after a big win.
Ravens Run Offense vs. Bengals Run Defense: Even
Ray Rice last year against the Bengals gained only 117 yards in two games against Cincinnati , but that wasn’t due to his struggles. The Ravens just did not stick with a true identity in either contest against Cincinnati, and quarterback Joe Flacco turned the ball over several times via interceptions. The Ravens struggled to run the ball effectively against the Jets Monday night, and the Bengals may look to copy that game plan against Rice and Willis McGahee, who fumbled the ball as well against New York but also had the Ravens’ lone touchdown.
Bengals defensive end Jonathan Fanene(hamstring) is out on Sunday, which could bode well for the interior of the Ravens offensive line, as well as linebacker Keith Rivers hobbled with a foot injury.
Ravens Passing Game vs. Bengals Pass Defense; Edge: Ravens
In both of last year’s match-ups, Joe Flacco didn’t have trouble finding receivers-the only issue was that the receivers were the Bengals defensive backs. Anquan Boldin lit up Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie Monday (110 yards receiving), and the Bengals failed to generate pressure on quarterback Tom Brady, who in turn threw three touchdown passes against the Bengals.
Wes Welker had success in the slot and had very good yards after the catch against Cincinnati, and the Ravens receivers may have similar success getting YAC. Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall are maybe one of the best 1-2 corner combinations in the league and they sometimes can cover their guys 1-on-1, but I think the Ravens can make some plays down the field against them.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh will be driven to do well against his old team, but tight end Todd Heap could miss the game with a shoulder injury on a diving catch he made in the fourth quarter against the Jets. And finally, the Bengals could look to exploit the right side of the line where Marshal Yanda could be filling in for Jared Gaither for yet another game at right tackle. Hopefully this wont happen to Flacco on the first play against Cincy like it did against the Jets.
Bengals Run Offense vs. Ravens Run Defense; Edge: Bengals
Even as a Ravens follower, I am on the Cedric Benson bandwagon. The Bengals receivers last year were no where near the receiving corps they are now, which is going to prevent the Ravens from stacking the box with eight defenders to stop the former Texas Longhorn. Benson joined longtime Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis as the only running back to rush for over 100 yards against the Ravens twice in the same season, and I think Benson will have the same success again. I think if Benson gets over 100 yards again, the Bengals win no questions asked.
The Ravens are 7-14 all time when allowing a 100-yard rusher.
LB Jarret Johnson may miss Sunday’s game with a back injury that has lingered over the last several years, but WNST’s own Glenn Clark told Rex Snider he expected Johnson to suit up. Jarret has been the Ravens’ “Iron Man” so to speak, playing in 98 straight games.
But with the loss of Johnson, helping the Ravens’ cause for stopping Benson may be aided by the return of DT Terrence Cody, who was limited in practice Thursday and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. If Cody were to play, it certainly shifts the balance of power in the run game toward the Ravens a bit.
Bengals Passing Offense vs. Ravens Passing Defense; Edge: Bengals
The Ravens have had problems with Owens and Chad OchoCinco in the past, but now they’re both on the same team. OchoCinco had 12 catches for 159 yards and a TD against the Patriots, and the Bengals established Owens early, as he caught 7 passes for 53 yards. I think these guys are two physical receivers who are going to be trouble for the Ravens’ smaller corners.
Hopefully this happens to OchoCinco again on Sunday-although without the penalty and on a legal hit…
But two other players who I think will cause matchup problems for the Ravens are two Big-12 receivers in former Texas Longhorn Jordan Shipley and ex-Sooner Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals tight end who drew looks from the Ravens in the draft. Shipley (5-11, 193 lb) may be too speedy in the slot for the Ravens to cover, much like Wes Welker. And the Gresham match-up (6-5, 261 lb.) against anyone on the Ravens defense is a win for the Bengals. If the Bengals don’t run all over the Ravens, I see them certainly passing all over Baltimore.
What benefits the Ravens is that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will have one of his best tacklers in the secondary with Lardarius Webb not even showing up on the injury report after coming back from a season-ending ACL tear in 2009. Webb was actually slated to play on Monday, but with the late rain going over the Meadowlands, the Ravens coaching staff got cold feet and deactivated Webb.
The Ravens earned two sacks on Monday against the Jets between Haloti Ngata, Jarret Johnson, and Terrell Suggs against a decent pass-blocking team with New York. The Bengals offensive-line is better at run blocking than stopping the opposing team from sacking the quarterback, and I think Ravens fans hope that Carson Palmer is still having going to have issues with holding onto the football with wrist, finger and elbow injuries sustained over the last several seasons.
The Ravens are 37-13 when Suggs records a sack, and Baltimore is 10-0 when he records two or more drops of the quarterback.
I don’t like the short week, and I do take into effect that the Bengals picked it up in the second half against the Patriots on Sunday, scoring three touchdowns. The Ravens didn’t look perfect on Monday against the Jets, and barely defeated a team that handed them the victory in all facets of the game. I see the Bengals scoring some points offensively either on the ground or through the air-it will just be the Ravens picking their poison.
And I think offensively, the Ravens will have a better showing offensively as opposed to the two games last year, but I still see Flacco making a bad decision against a team that is just going to sit in Cover 2 and wait for Flacco to throw a pass into coverage. All of these AFC North games are close, but I see the Bengals coming out on top late in the game.
In their last five trips to Cincinnati, the Ravens are 1-4 in those away games, with the only win coming in 2008.
Bengals 21, Ravens 17
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