The Baltimore Ravens still have a chance at the playoffs as I wrote previously. Getting the win this week will be no easier against the Cincinnati Bengals, who are a perfect 7-0 at home this season and going for the perfect 8-0.
The Ravens have been struggling on the road with only two wins at opponents’ stadiums this season. The Bengals, who are not only doing great at home, but are on fire here at the end of the season, are not going to be a simple opponent to beat … even with the Ravens’ success over them in the past.
The Ravens managed to defeat the Bengals 20-17 in overtime on November 10th. The game went into overtime because the defense did as it has the entire season — allowing late game points … 17 points to be exact, which was all the points the offense could score in the first half alone. The tying touchdown as time expired was a defensive meltdown allowing a Hail Mary to be deflected into the air and caught.
Joe Flacco threw for a simple 140 yards, and this Sunday, he will need to throw for many more. The Bengals have one of the top defenses in the league in total yards, passing, rushing, and points allowed.
In order to compensate for the good defense, the Ravens need takeaways. With a sputtering offense, a short field will help Flacco put points on the board.
The Ravens need points throughout the entire game to allow the defense some wiggle room in the third and fourth quarters. I believe the game will come down to those quarters. If the Ravens do not score in the fourth quarter, the Bengals will take the win.
The Ravens don’t need any more turnovers. Flacco cannot afford to turn the ball over and feed the Cincinnati crowds making communication over a questionable offensive line any harder.
Whether it is a quick offensive strike, or a quick takeaway, the Ravens need to silence the crowd quickly.
Everyone says stats don’t matter in rivalry games, so I really hope this is true. The New England Patriots had a terrible defense compared to the Bengals. The Patriots held down Ravens receivers with four catches at the most among three players. Two of the players to catch four passes were not wide receivers, but tight ends.
15 receptions by non-wide receivers compared to only eight by wide receivers needs to change this week. Though Flacco has had five great seasons before this one, he needs to show he is worth the 120 million contract this season.
The Ravens need to do everything well to beat the Bengals, but they especially need to score quickly to drain the energy from the fans. Flacco needs to spread out the offense, and get the ball to his wide receivers earlier in the game.
I hope that Flacco is used to the brace he will be wearing again. He cannot afford to be uncomfortable, so hopefully last week was a learning experience for him. Flacco will be more stable and mobile with the brace on.
The defense has much to do to allow the offense to get going. The red zone defense has fallen from its top ranks earlier in the season, and the Bengals have had a great red zone offense to end the season.
Andy Dalton has thrown for nine touchdowns and zero interceptions and over 850 yards passing in his last three games. Against the Ravens in the previous match-up, Dalton threw for three interceptions.
Looking over Dalton’s game splits (much like Flacco being the cause of many of the Ravens losses) Dalton has played less than stellar in the five losses the Bengals have.
Dalton has 10 touchdowns and a single interception in December, so the Ravens’ defense has to step up and put pressure on Dalton from the beginning of the game. If Dalton begins to falter under the pressure, the team will fall with him.
Elvis Dumervil is questionable for Sunday’s game after being limited in practice. He had three sacks against Dalton in the first match-up; so hopefully, he is healthy to repeat his success. Terrell Suggs needs to play well unlike recently, so the defensive line has a push on all edges.
The Ravens did not pressure Tom Brady at all and were not burned. Dalton has a great line of receivers, and he plays too well to allow a chance at the second seed in the AFC to slip away. If the defense does not pressure him and knock him on his back, he will make the Ravens suffer because of it.
It’s a tough game for the Ravens, and they have to show themselves to be the team they frankly have not been all season in order to win.
Tags: Baltimore Ravens