Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens must beat Bengals: Subtle reasons for optimism

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.

NEXT POST: Ravens Flock: Can we just give John Harbaugh a break?

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.

 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals: 4 predictions and a score

By Chris Schisler

1. The Baltimore Ravens defense stays hot

The Baltimore Ravens defense has a good chance to stay hot and pick up some momentum. Last week the Ravens stood tall against Justin Herbert. The only score the Chargers had was a touchdown right after a Ravens’ turnover. The Ravens showed their best defensive performance of the season. It was the first time the defense showed that it could be dominant against a top-tier opponent.

If you’ve been paying attention though, this was not the first time the defense has shown steps forward. The Broncos’ passing attack was absolutely thwarted by the Baltimore defense. The Lions’ offense struggled until the dam broke against a Ravens defense that was thinned out on the defensive front. The Ravens stopped the Kansas City Chiefs when they had to for a strong comeback win. The Chargers game looked like an example of a defense finding its identity and sticking with it.

The Cincinnati Bengals offense isn’t much different than that of the Chargers. They have an impressive young wide receiver and plenty of talent at wide receiver. The Ravens should be able to utilize a very similar game plan on defense against the Bengals. Joe Burrow may put up some decent numbers, but Martindale is going to make third downs a bad place for the Bengals to be. The red zone is going to be quite the challenge for Cincinnati. The Bengals may get the defense to bend, but they’re not going to break it. I’m calling it now, the Bengals are held to less than 300 total yards and struggle to get in the end zone more than once or twice.

2. Mark Andrews has a monster game:

The Ravens and Bengals play twice per season, so some matchups are more predictable than others. In the two games last year Andrews put up 10 receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown. In 2019, Andrews had six catches in both games. In the first of the 2019 battles with Cincinnati, Andrews had two touchdowns. In the second, Andrews had no touchdowns but 99 yards receiving. Andrews hasn’t brutalized the Bengals quite like he has the other team from Ohio, but he always shows up in these games.

Let’s take a look at the momentum Andrews is having going into this game. He has two games this season with over 100 receiving yards. Two weeks ago against the Colts, he had 11 receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Last week, Andrews had five receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals have a mostly young defense and no answers for Andrews. Put Andrews down for eight receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

3. Rashod Bateman gets heavily involved in the Baltimore Ravens offense:

Rashod Bateman had four receptions for first downs against the Chargers. It was his first taste of football in a Ravens uniform. Other than a drop that led to an interception, it went well. The fact that the Ravens gave Bateman so many snaps in his first game shows you both how ready he was but also how the Ravens feel about him as a receiver. It’s important to remember that Devin Duvernay and James Proche have been playing well – the Ravens didn’t necessarily need to add Bateman to the main mix.

Put Bateman down for five receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. It’s not a monster game but it’s going to put on quite the impression on the football world. Bateman is going to show that he is the real deal and that his presence makes the Ravens more dangerous offensively.

Score: Ravens win 35-24

The Ravens’ offense is humming at a nice rate. They know what they’re about and Lamar Jackson makes a lot of things work smoother than maybe they should. With the defense filling me with confidence last week, I think the Ravens prevail by more than one score in front of their home crowd.

NEXT POST: The Baltimore Ravens and the year of incredible resilience

Look for the Bengals to make this a good game for two or three quarters. In the end, the Ravens are the best fourth-quarter team in football plus they’re the better overall team at home. Baltimore will pull away and win this one. This strikes me as a team that will take advantage of the games they should win.