By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens need to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, If the Ravens lose to the Bengals it could be the final blow that knocks them out of the playoffs. It’s an AFC North opponent, with the division up for grabs. If the Ravens fall out of their chance to win the division, losing to another AFC team won’t help them in the Wild Card logjam. This is a must-win game.
The Ravens are facing their usual amount of 2021 season adversity. Covid-19 casts a fairly large shadow on this game. The Ravens have about 15 players on the Covid/Reserve list, it seems to get worse on that front, not better. Injuries are still a major problem. This won’t be a full-strength team. They’re on the road and the season is on the line. Where’s the hope? Let’s go over some subtle reasons for optimism.
Defensive turnaround despite injuries/Covid
The Ravens defense has been playing better than you’d expect. Marlon Humphrey went down against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns didn’t torch the Ravens through the air. Aaron Rodgers had some fun last week, but come on, you thought that was going to be worse. This defense has been playing well and it almost defies common sense.
In the Bengals’ earlier 41-17 win over Baltimore they played a healthier defense. The Ravens are a changed team defensively and their front seven especially has stepped up. It was a bad October day for the Ravens, Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine made sure of that averaging over 4.5 yards per attempt and picking up over 50 yards apiece. Burrow was hot and the Bengals could do whatever they wanted. The story could change in Ohio this Sunday.
Think about it. Nick Chubb failed to launch in both of the Ravens’ battles with the Browns. The Ravens have been one of the best teams in terms of points allowed. The Ravens have been formidable on third downs and the quality of tackling has improved dramatically in the back half of the season. At the beginning of the year, it was about Lamar Jackson carrying the team. Now Jackson is out and the defense is giving this team a shot. Somehow, someway the defense has made things competitive.
Matchups that could work for the Baltimore Ravens on offense:
Lamar Jackson hasn’t practiced this week. Let’s cut to the chase, you’re going to see Tyler Huntley again. Huntley has looked incredibly sharp. He orchestrated a game-winning drive in the windy city against the Chicago Bears. He played well enough for the Ravens to come back and almost beat the Browns. The Ravens just dropped 30 points on the Green Bay Packers. Going with the guy who is in rhythm, who’s healthy, and working with some fresh new confidence doesn’t sound all that bad.
The Baltimore receivers were accomplished in the last outing against the Bengals. Both Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman had 80 yards receiving in the game. Brown and tight end, Mark Andrews, scored a touchdown. The matchups weren’t bad last time, Jackson was just a bit off and the Bengals had the right game plan. Look for the Ravens to be unafraid of taking shots with their backup quarterback.
The run game can’t be as bad as it was last time. Last time Lamar Jackson ran for 88 rushing yards and there wasn’t much else to speak about on the ground. Both Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray have been picking up some steam at the running back position. The Ravens just have to avoid playing catchup and their rushing attack is very much in play. Huntley can have the same impact on the ground that Jackson had. The Ravens could get 150-200 yards rushing on Sunday.
The Bottom Line:
The Bengals are a good team. They also lost to the New York Jets. Both teams are quite capable of defeating themselves; you never know what you’re getting from Cincinnati. The Ravens should count on nothing and take every bit of effort they have to Paul Brown Stadium. This game is a pressure cooker for Cincinnati too. John Harbaugh has more experience than Zac Taylor, and until the last game, Harbaugh has had Taylor’s team pegged.
The reasons to worry smack you in the face. You don’t need the negative highlighted for you. Here are the reasons the Ravens can win. That doesn’t mean they will, it means they can. The fight is on.