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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 09 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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Off to their worst start since the 2005 season, the 3-5 Ravens have never been in such a position in the John Harbaugh era as they meet the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals for the 35th time in franchise history.

Hoping their return to M&T Bank Stadium for the first time in nearly a month will snap a three-game losing streak, the Ravens trail the Bengals by 2 1/2 games in the AFC North and will see their playoff hopes on life support if they drop their third consecutive division game. However, Baltimore has won four of the last five meetings with Cincinnati as the Bengals are still chasing consistency with a talented and deep roster.

The Ravens listed five players as questionable on the final injury report of the week — four of them key defensive players — while Cincinnati will be without inside linebacker Rey Maualuga and will be playing its first game since the season-ending ACL injury suffered by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins in Week 9.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens lead the all-time series with Cincinnati by a 19-15 margin and are 12-5 in Baltimore. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are 6-4 against the Bengals, which includes a 4-1 record at M&T Bank Stadium.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their first game since Oct. 6 and move closer toward the .500 mark to begin the second half of the season …

1. Underused wide receiver Deonte Thompson will catch the first touchdown of his career. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s use of Thompson has been perplexing as the second-year wideout has been effective whenever afforded opportunities and has caught just over 64 percent of attempts on which he’s been targeted (nine of 14), the highest success rate of any wide receiver or tight end on the roster. Flacco has struggled in the vertical passing game this season, which was understandable early in the year, but the returns of Jacoby Jones and Thompson have given the Ravens adequate speed to complement No. 1 receiver Torrey Smith. It’s difficult to envision the offense being fixed due to an ineffective offensive line and an inadequate number of consistent weapons, but the Ravens need to throw caution to the wind in taking more deep shots. With Smith once again receiving the most attention, Thompson will slip free for a long score.

2. The absence of Atkins will not be an elixir for the Ravens’ inept running game. It’s true that the Cincinnati defense is more vulnerable after its recent rash of injuries, but the Baltimore running game has been effective for only 30 minutes — the second half of the Miami game in Week 5 — of the 480 total played this year. A poor offensive line is undersized at center and left guard and Ray Rice once again showed a lack of explosiveness last week in Cleveland despite his claims of finally being 100 percent healthy. Caldwell will likely explore further use of the pistol formation to give the Ravens more options in running the ball while working out of a three-wide, shotgun spread formation extensively, but expecting the Ravens to suddenly start running the ball effectively is based on hopes and dreams and nothing about their performance this season. It’s only common sense to assume the Ravens will average under 3.0 yards per carry and accumulate no more 70 or 80 rushing yards until they show otherwise.

3. A banged-up secondary won’t be able to handle the many Bengals weapons, allowing quarterback Andy Dalton to throw for two touchdowns and 250-plus yards. Everyone knows how dangerous Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green is, but the emergence of fellow wide receiver Marvin Jones spells bad news for a secondary listing Jimmy Smith, Corey Graham, and James Ihedigbo as questionable for Sunday’s game. The Ravens’ 14th-ranked pass defense has been vulnerable to missed tackles and big plays, which doesn’t bode well against an offense with talented pass-catching options at receiver, tight end, and in the backfield with rookie Giovani Bernard. Cornerback Lardarius Webb will do a respectable job against Green when the Ravens shade safety help in his direction, but there isn’t enough quality coverage to go around in shutting down the league’s seventh-ranked passing attack, meaning the Ravens must pressure Dalton heavily to give themselves a good chance.

4. Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth will have another shutdown effort against linebacker Terrell Suggs. Browns tackle Joe Thomas receives all the accolades while Whitworth just made his first Pro Bowl last season, but the Bengals lineman has arguably given Suggs more trouble than any other blocker in his 11-year career. Of Suggs’ 7 1/2 career sacks against Cincinnati, only 2 1/2 have come since 2006 when Whitworth was drafted in the second round out of LSU. Without Whitworth playing in their last game, the Bengals gave up five sacks and Dalton turned the ball over four times as he was harassed all night. The Ravens will win on Sunday if they can repeat Miami’s performance in forcing the bad Dalton to come out, but that pressure will need to come from defenders who aren’t lined up against the Bengals left tackle. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to move Suggs around a bit, but big performances will need to come from Elvis Dumervil, Arthur Jones, and others.

5. With their backs against the wall even more than they were last week in Cleveland, the Ravens will fall short once again in a 27-20 final. In the history of the Harbaugh era, the Ravens have been able to rise to the occasion when they’ve needed it most in the regular season. Meanwhile, the Bengals have had success over the last couple years but still fight the trap of reverting to the “Bungles” from time to time. It might not be a must-win game for the Ravens in terms of the mathematics of the playoff race, but falling to 3-6 virtually ends their playoff hopes with five of their final seven games coming against teams with winning records. Those trends would lead you to believe the Ravens will find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against a team with more talent, but “that was then, this is now” as author S.E. Hinton would say. A familiar script of a slow start offensively coupled with a solid defensive effort void of game-changing plays will lead to another close defeat for the Ravens.

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If the Ravens lose on Sunday in Cleveland, please let it be on a safety in overtime

Posted on 01 November 2013 by Drew Forrester

I know the old saying – “beggars can’t be choosers” – but if the Ravens ARE going to lose in Cleveland on Sunday, I sure as hell hope they do it the same way the Bengals did it on Thursday night in Miami.

Can you imagine what doing my job would entail next week if Paul Kruger, for example, sacks Joe Flacco in the end zone in overtime to give Cleveland a 15-13 win?

I wouldn’t have to say anything at all.  Just open the mic, sit back, and listen to it all.

“Welcome back to the D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction, let’s go to the phones to discuss yesterday’s Ravens loss in Cleveland…Smedley’s in Perry Hall.  What’s up Smedley?”

“I can’t believe Jim Caldwell called for a pass play on 3rd and 10 from the 8 yard line…that guy needs go.  I’m telling you, we can’t win the Super Bowl with that bum calling plays.”

“Well, they did win the title last year when he was the offens –“

“That’s not the point, Drew.  We won last year, yes.  But he didn’t have much to do with the offense.  This year the whole offense is his and we can’t get the job done.  Caldwell has to go.”

“Back to the phones we go, Fred’s in Parkville.”

“Harbaugh sucks.”

“OK, anything else?”

“Not really.  That guy has to go, Drew, I’m telling you.  Did you see the start of the game?  We were completely unprepared to play from the jump.  I don’t know what everyone sees in him.”

“Phil’s in Manchester.”

“This is what the Ravens get for giving Flacco a hundred and twenty million.  He has no field vision at all.  Without Boldin, he might as well be Brady Quinn.”

“Dave in Towson, what’s up today?”

“You have to put some of this on the zone blocking scheme.”

“But, the Ravens didn’t use the zone blocking scheme in the game yesterday.”

“That’s what I mean.  They should have used it.  See, the problem is, Drew, Harbaugh has no feel at all for the offense.  One thing about Cam Cameron, he had a feel for that stuff.”

“Steve, you’re up in Towson, what’s going on?”

“Someone mentioned Harbaugh earlier.  I was thinking the same thing.  I’m going all the way back to the coin flip at the beginning of the game.  First, he sends the guys out there to call ‘heads’, which we all know is stupid.  It always comes up tails.  Then, heads comes up, he wins the coin flip, and he defers anyway.  You have to take the ball to start the game.  The whole game went downhill right away, in my opinion.  He has no feel at all for the coin flip.”

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You might be laughing, but you know what you’re reading above is true.

I don’t know what they’re talking about in Cincinnati this morning, but I can’t imagine they’re saying stupid stuff about their offensive coordinator the way we would be in Baltimore today.

Cameron Wake made one helluva play on the safety to win the game for Miami.

Andy Dalton HAS to get rid of the ball there, yes, but give some credit to Wake for making an All-Pro move to win the game.

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By the way, none of this will happen next Monday, because the Ravens aren’t going to Cleveland and losing on Sunday.

It won’t be pretty, because it rarely ever is when it comes to the Ravens.

Baltimore 20 — and the Browns 12

 

 

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The 15-7-0 thinks Bah-sten is full of loo-sahs!

Posted on 24 September 2012 by Glenn Clark

As always, this week’s 15-7-0 is brought to you by Roofing By Elite. Visit them at roofingbyelite.com. We make 15 observations about football ELITE, 7 about football “not so ELITE” and one “zero” who deserves to sleep on the roof from outside of football.

(As a reminder, we don’t do Baltimore Ravens game analysis here. We do PLENTY of that elsewhere. This is about the rest of the world of football.)

“The ELITE 15″…

1. I know Maryland lost to West Virginia and all, but it’s hard for me to imagine saying the name Stefon Diggs without including him in the elite category.

It doesn’t excuse the stupidity of Randy Edsall’s clock management at the end of the first half OR the continued issues this Maryland team is having with turning the ball over, but I think most of us would agree that simply not losing by 70 is half an accomplishment for this particular Maryland team.

Losing by 10 is almost…frankly…amazing for this group.

What’s ABSOLUTELY amazing is watching what happens when the football is in the hands of Terps freshman WR Stefon Diggs. For example, he had three catches Saturday. Here are two of them…


If this was basketball, we’d be chanting “one more year!” every time he touched the ball.

By the way, Geno Smith looks like the early season Heisman Trophy frontrunner. That is of course thanks almost entirely to the fact that he gets to throw the ball to Tavon Austin.

2. In a game featuring Robert Griffin III and Andy Dalton, perhaps we should have expected Mohamed Sanu was going to make the best play of the game from under center?

Redskins defender: “Oh I see, they put a receiver in the Wildcat because they want to catch us off guard with a run on the first play. Well, they’re not going to surprise me, or my name isn’t……WAIT A MINUTE!!!!!!!!!!!”

This ended up being a really good game. The Redskins had the ball late, but a personal foul called against their bench forced Robert Griffin III to simply heave the ball towards the endzone as the game was ending. I wonder what Skins OC Kyle Shanahan thought about the call?

Oh then.

3. The Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons are currently the best teams in the AFC and NFC, respectively.

So here’s Matt Schaub getting hit by Broncos LB Joe Mays…

And here’s what he looked like after LOSING PART OF HIS EARLOBE ON THE HIT…

But otherwise, the Texans defense is ridiculous and Peyton Manning and the Broncos are 1-2. It’s not good news for my Peyton Manning-lead fantasy teams.

Also, the Falcons are totally over that whole “4th and 1 hangover” thing we thought might be an issue. And I guess because he’s worried about being the next Vernon Davis or Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez adjusted his TD celebration…

Nice form.

4. Florida State cleared a MAJOR hurdle in the road towards being a legitimate national championship contender.

You want to see a run? Here’s James Wilder Jr. absolutely OWNING Clemson…

It was a more impressive effort for the Seminoles than THIS…

Or this from former Nole Lee Corso…

But not more impressive than this from their own cheerleaders…

5. Usually Towson’s win would be the only time I’d mention CAA football in the 15-7-0. That all changes when someone throws for over 700 yards.

The name is Taylor Heinicke. Here’s what he did for Old Dominion against New Hampshire.

SEVEN HUNDRED AND THIRTY YARDS? THAT’S TWO SEASONS FOR TIM TEBOW IN ONE DAY!!!!

Also, I had a great time watching (at least the first half) of the Tigers stomping the Red Flash…

The good news for the Tigers? Ummm….at least they get LSU next Saturday coming off a less than impressive performance against Auburn? Say it with me…”Just don’t give up 100!”

6. Dear Oakland Raiders…thank you. Love, Baltimore.

The story of this one was the frightening injury suffered by former Maryland WR Darrius Heyward-Bey on a hit from Ryan Mundy…

Ugh. Just…ugh. It wasn’t the only big hit of the day though. Welcome, Matt Giordano…

And also, Emmanuel Sanders thought your computer needed a new wallpaper…

7. The Arizona Cardinals are 3-0 and alone in first place in the NFC West. Nothing to see here.

The Cards had never started a season 3-0 since moving to Arizona, so why WOULDN’T it happen in the year where they picked John Skelton to play QB over Kevin Kolb and then were forced to default back to Kevin Kolb. Makes perfect sense.

For the Eagles, at least Michael Vick had that big scoring play before the half?

And in case you forgot, Larry Fitzgerald would like to remind you that he’s quite good…

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Bengals defense curls up and says “please don’t hurt me” in 44-13 drubbing

Posted on 10 September 2012 by Drew Forrester

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis strolled into his post-game media press conference at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday night and didn’t look all that concerned about the battering his defense took in a 44-13 drubbing at the hands of the Ravens.

I must have watched a different game than he did from the sidelines.

“We weren’t bothered by the (Ravens) no-huddle, we just didn’t make any plays,” he claimed.

I guess that’s one way of trying to justify a game with no turnovers created, which the Bengals defense didn’t do on Monday night.

From my vantage point, I saw a Bengals defense unprepared for the next play in front of them.  Time and time again, the Bengals failed to put any pressure on Joe Flacco and the 5th year quarterback picked them apart with ease, going early and often to a host of pass catchers, including Jacoby Jones and Anquan Boldin, who caught a 2nd quarter TD pass.

It all started off magically for the Ravens.  The season’s first offensive play for Baltimore was a 52-yard completion from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith, a sign of things to come for the rest of the night.  The victim was Leon Hall, who took his fair share of humiliation on Monday along with the rest of the Cincinnati secondary.  Flacco looked polished, assertive and hungry, picking apart the Bengals with throws both across the middle and deep down the field.  It was, Lewis hopes, perhaps a case of opening night nerves for the visitors, but the Ravens offense moved the ball at will throughout most of the evening.

Interestingly enough, the Cincy offense rattled off three consecutive long drives in the second and third quarters, going for 76, 79 and 81 yards en route to collecting their 13 points.  It’s rare that a Ravens defense allows three drives of that nature, but Baltimore wasn’t exactly the ’85 Bears on Monday night, as they put little outside pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and didn’t stop the run with the kind of regularity we might have expected.

(Please see next page)

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 09 September 2012 by Luke Jones

Here’s what to expect when the Ravens welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to M&T Bank Stadium for the season opener and Baltimore’s first Monday night home game since 2007 …

1. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will exploit a vulnerable interior offensive line to collect a sack and put inside pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. The Bengals only signed veteran center Jeff Faine at the end of August after starter Kyle Cook suffered an ankle injury and rookie Kevin Zeitler has struggled at right guard, meaning the interior of the Cincinnati offensive line is ripe for the picking. Ngata had a quiet preseason, but he appeared to be in much better shape by the end of training camp. He knows there’s more pressure on him to help the pass rush from the interior, and the All-Pro starter does just that in the opening game of the season.

2. Wide receiver Torrey Smith will build on a strong preseason with 90 yards and a touchdown reception. No one seems to talk about quarterback Joe Flacco struggling against Cover 2 defenses since the emergence of Smith last season. The University of Maryland product caught 11 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown in two games against the Bengals last season. The Ravens will use Smith on underneath routes early in the game — causing safeties Taylor Mays and Reggie Nelson to creep closer to the line of scrimmage — before the speedy receiver burns the Cincinnati defense for a long touchdown. The Bengals will be without rookie corner Dre Kirkpatrick and his absence will hurt their secondary.

3. Dalton will throw for 230 yards and two touchdowns as the Bengals test the Baltimore pass rush and go after the secondary. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis gives the Bengals a better threat in the running game, but Cincinnati will not hesitate in being aggressive with their passing game. The secondary must remain cognizant of Bengals wideout A.J. Green at all times and will likely roll coverage his way often, but the Baltimore linebackers will struggle in coverage against Cincinnati tight end Jermaine Gresham, who had eight catches for 120 yards against the Ravens last year. The Bengals will need to be aggressive to pull off the upset in Baltimore, meaning Dalton will have plenty of opportunities to gain yardage against the most vulnerable Ravens defense we’ve seen in quite some time.

4. Cincinnati left tackle Andrew Whitworth will make the rush linebacker spot a non-factor for the Ravens in Week 1. Linebacker Terrell Suggs was often made to look quite mortal against the Bengals left tackle in prior seasons, so you can imagine how much of a challenge he’ll pose for starting rush linebacker Albert McClellan on Monday night. I’m still expecting the Ravens to use Paul Kruger at the rush spot at different times, but Whitworth is one of the most underrated left tackles in the game. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will need to rely on the interior defensive line and blitzes to get to Dalton because the trio of Kruger, McClellan, and rookie Courtney Upshaw will not be up to the task in this matchup.

5. On an emotional night remembering the late Art Modell, the Ravens continue their impressive winning streak against the AFC North with a 24-21 win over Cincinnati. Until I see the Bengals prove they can do it in consecutive seasons, I still have a tough time viewing them as anything but third fiddle in the AFC North behind the Ravens and Pittsburgh. The combination of Dalton to Green will pose a major challenge to the defense, but running back Ray Rice rushed for almost 300 yards against the Bengals defense last year. The Ravens will start aggressively in the no-huddle attack to build an early lead through the passing game and wear down the Cincinnati defense with Rice in the second half. The emotion of honoring Modell and the home crowd will help propel the Ravens to their ninth straight win against AFC North opponents and their 19th win in the last 20 regular-season games played at M&T Bank Stadium.

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