Ravens @ Bengals

Battle Plans Ravens @ Bengals

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Offense

 

1) Blitz pick up: Despite the numbers, the

Cincinnati
defense has been playing better as of late. But the Bengals are still amongst the worst in the league at rushing the passer. The front four has been a incapable of breaking down the pocket.

 

To compensate, the Bengals will dial up the blitz early and often against the Ravens.

Cincinnati
will likely try to probe the

Baltimore
line off the edges, so the tackles will need to be aware of their blitz assignments and the extra blockers will need to use consistent technique to win their individual matchups when they take on a free rusher.

 

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

Houston
, Heap has fallen off the past two games against two of the faster and better pass defenses in the league –

New York
and

Philadelphia
. Although the

Cincinnati
pass defense is not nearly as bad as its rush defense, the group still has some holes that can be exploited – specifically, at the linebacker spots. None of the

Cincinnati
backers can keep up with Heap in man-to-man coverage.

 

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.

Cincinnati
has not quit at all this season, and continues to play hard, despite not being able to measure up against their competition.  The Ravens will not be able to merely take the field and expect the Bengals to back off and give the game away.


 

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.

 

Defense

 

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

Baltimore
defense in the past, and they have confidence whenever they face the Ravens. Moreover, both players have hit homeruns downfield against the

Baltimore
back end.


 

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.

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Dev Panchwagh

About Dev Panchwagh

Dev Panchwagh is a versatile analyst who breaks down the Xs and Os of the game and has been a columnist/analyst for Ravens24x7.com since the summer of 2004. In his regular season column Battle Plans, Dev highlights the Ravens' keys to success against each upcoming opponent. Dev started modestly as a sports journalist, but his contributions to sports talk radio were noticed, leading to duties as a regular columnist for the Scouts.com network before joining RSR.  It would be very difficult to find his rare combination of youthfulness, knowledge and insight in all facets of football anywhere else.  Fortunately, Dev brings it here each and every week.  More from Dev Panchwagh

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