1) Blitz pick up: Despite the numbers, the
To compensate, the Bengals will dial up the blitz early and often against the Ravens.
2) Flex Heap: Todd Heap has been missing-in-action all season long, and at this point in the season it is clear that the tight ends are not a focal point in the offense; that said, headed into the stretch run, this would be a good time to reintegrate the tight ends into the pass offense.
After having a strong performance against
Heap should be the go-to player in the offense on Sunday. He should be motioned around from out wide to the backfield and either be the main target on pass routes or serve as the decoy to free up the other wideouts.
3) Grind the clock: Given the scope of this game, it will be key for the offense to hold the ball as long as possible and try to deflate the Bengals’ resolve as soon as possible.
This is the type of game in which the Ravens have to assert themselves early on to take control and then hold off the Bengals by the end. Winning the time-of-possession battle will be crucial to accomplish this feat.
1) Prevent the big play: Regardless of how bad the Bengals have been this season, and how putrid their passing attack has been (ranked 30th in the league), they still have the capability of generating a big play at any time. Receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ocho Cino have been thorns in sides of the
For the Ravens to have an effective day on defense, they will need to force both wideouts to run through tight coverage pockets. Neither player can have enough space to work with in man-to-man situations. Given how inaccurate quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been all season, it will be tough for him to locate the ball into those tight quarters, and the result could lead to more errant passes for the secondary to gobble up just as they did a week against the Eagles.
2) Hands up: Aside from a clunker against the Giants, the front line has been tremendous at pushing the pocket and forcing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quicker than they want to. In addition, the linemen and the linebackers have done a nice job of making sure to raise their arms to obstruct the quarterback’s sight line before he releases the ball, and knock the ball down.
Against the Bengals, the front seven will need to have another active Sunday. The group will need to keep their eyes on Fitzpatrick. Even if they can’t fight through their blocks to flag Fitzpatrick down, they can time their jumps when he releases the ball to deflect his passes.
3) Third-and-long: The best way to eradicate a lesser opponent in the NFL is to back them up against a wall. If the defense gives up quick-hitting gains on first and second down, the Bengals will have enough confidence on offense to sustain drives.
The Ravens will need to control the action on first and second down, to force the Bengals into third-and-long conversion situations. The focus should be to create negative plays, take the ball away or get stops every time on third down.
One-on-one Matchup to Watch: Derrick Mason versus Jonathan Joseph: Despite how awful the Bengals have been on defense, the pass defense has been decent, and Joseph has been a steady player at the corner position. He is a tough, physical and aggressive player who will jump routes. Mason has found a way to make plays all season, despite fighting through injuries and tight coverage. He will need to be on top of his game to get open underneath against Joseph.