Ravens v Bengals Preview
The Ravens and Bengals renew their AFC North rivalry Thursday night in the Queen City. The winner will take over sole possession of the division in Week 2. The Ravens dismantled the Bills 47-3 in the opener. The Bengals had a much tougher game against the Colts before pulling away late with a 34-23 victory.
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Ravens coach John Harbaugh downplayed the significance of being able to rest a few starters with a commanding 40-0 second-half lead against the Bills. A lot of key players, especially on the offensive line, still played the duration.
“You can’t rest too many guys, because it’s not like the preseason where you have your whole 90-man roster, or however many guys you take into a preseason game,” Harbaugh said. “It’s still only 46 guys who are playing, so a couple guys got to sit out early, and that was probably somewhat helpful.”
Nonetheless, quarterback Joe Flacco, offensive lineman Marshal Yanda, back from off-season shoulder surgery, and longtime veteran Terrell Suggs should be fresh Thursday night. That could be vital on the short week.
The Ravens instilled confidence in the fan base with the dominant performance in Week 1. However, the Bengals will pose a more formidable challenge, especially on the road. Receiver A.J. Green has traditionally been a tough matchup for the Ravens. Ideally, Marlon Humphrey, who had a stellar game against the Bills, can line up against him. Brandon Carr could focus on John Ross, who also has the ability to make plays deep downfield. The cornerbacks are going to need support from safeties Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. Green has 48 receptions for 817 yards with six touchdowns in 10 career games against Baltimore.
The Ravens blanked the Bengals 20-0 in the season opener last season at Paul Brown Stadium. While that game has little relevancy to Thursday night, there still should be some lingering confidence from that performance. Cincinnati is playing its home opener, so the crowd could be a factor. One key for the Ravens will be to get off to a fast start to help set the tone. The Bengals have won seven of the last nine meetings between the teams.
Joe Flacco was sacked just once against an anemic Bills pass rush. He will have less time in the pocket against the Bengals, who are led by defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The Ravens offensive line, especially center Matt Skura, will be challenged to contain this duo. As a result, Flacco is sometimes going to have to make quick reads. This could create opportunities for Willie Snead in the slot. This is a game where the Ravens really could have used injured tight end Hayden Hurst.
Since 2010, 12 of the teams’ 16 games have been decided by eight points or fewer. That trend will likely continue in this game. One of the keys for the Ravens will be to keep A.J. Green & Co. off the field. As a result, Baltimore will need to get more production from their running attack to control the tempo.
The Bengals knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs last year in Week 17 with a last-minute touchdown.
While the coaches and players from Baltimore have downplayed that revenge angle, look for the Ravens to be aggressive and try to be the more physical team.