In this week’s 2MD we’ll look at what went right last week, what the Ravens need to do on Sunday to widen their AFC North lead, a weak week in the NFL schedule, and some ‘way too early’ draft discussions.
About Last Week
Ravens 34 Bolts 7
The Ravens defense showed up, played up to the level we have expected, and the hope is that they’re here to stay. We witnessed a Ravens defense that swarmed ball carriers, and a unit that played tight coverage on some seriously talented wideouts in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. They also kept Justin Herbert uncomfortable, regardless of not having an eye-popping amount of QB hits or sacks on the day.
Offensively, it was extremely rhythmic and Lamar Jackson composed another symphony on the field. The ground game was effective, no matter who was carrying the ball, and Lamar spread the love with the pass, notably including four beautiful first down receptions by rookie Rashod Bateman.
That was the type of football we’ve been waiting to see from Baltimore this season, and I have faith that if the Ravens play the same type of cohesive, physical football in all three phases of the game?
This Week: Bengals at Ravens (-6.5)
With their first divisional game of season on the horizon, the Ravens look to widen their lead in the AFC North. As it currently stands, Cincinnati sits in 2nd place at 4-2, followed by Cleveland at 4-3 and Pittsburgh at 3-3. With a win over the Bengals, the Ravens would give themselves a two-game lead heading into their bye week.
The three games following the bye are extremely winnable games, but let’s just take this one game at a time, starting with Cincy on Sunday.
Going into this game, you see Joe Burrow and rookie Ja’Marr Chase lighting it up, while Joe Mixon remains a strong backfield presence… but the true strength of this team isn’t a league-average offense. It’s that top-tier defense.
The Bengals defense ranks 5th in points allowed, 8th in yards allowed, have allowed the 3rd fewest passing touchdowns and rank inside the top-10 in every run defensive metric you can find. One interesting note however… the Bengals have faced 1.5 rookies (Trevor Lawrence and half a game against Justin Fields), 3.5 statues (Big Ben, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff and half a game against Andy Dalton) and then Aaron Rodgers (who lit them up to the tune of 333 passing yards).
Facing a seasoned-veteran – and highly elusive – quarterback in Jackson this week is surely a test at a whole new level for this Bengals defense.
How will the Ravens offense that’s feasted on weaker defenses show against this fierce Bengals unit? Can the ground game continue to stay hot? Or will the Ravens look to their own rookie pass catcher in Bateman, along with Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown, to attack the Bengals through the air?
The Ravens will start slow, as they’ve shown to do most of the season, but will get into a rhythm through the air and Lamar will put up yet another highlight reel show against the Bengals in a slightly lower scoring affair, but one that favors Baltimore.
Let’s put Jackson down for 22/30 for 285 yards and two touchdowns passing, with another 75 yards rushing and a touchdown, with the bulk of those ground yards coming on a 35-yard touchdown run. Bateman is the leading receiver with 80 yards and his first NFL touchdown, while the ground game is another evenly split affair this week. I’ll give Bell the edge with 50 yards and a receiving touchdown.
Defensively, the Ravens will have a very ‘bend don’t break’ day, as they’ll give us some chunk plays to Chase that’ll allow the Bengals to keep pace in this game, but ultimately stunting Mixon and the ground game will hold the Bengals to a few long field goals late to keep the Ravens out of reach and help seal a 5th straight victory for Baltimore. Let’s give Justin Houston a pair of sacks and Odafe Oweh one of his own on Burrow, while Anthony Averett will get a 4th quarter interception and help fans forget about that pesky Colts game even more.
Offensive player of the game: Lamar Jackson for a highlight reel run.
Defensive player of the game: Justin Houston with two sacks as he breaks the 100-sack plateau.
Ravens 30 Bengals 20
Best of the Rest
I’ll be honest… this week’s slate of games is hot garbage. In fact, other than the Ravens-Bengals game, there’s not another game with two teams boasting winning records. Just a bunch of good teams against bad teams in lopsided affairs… but I guess, here’s the best of the yawn worthy games.
Chiefs (-4.5) at Titans. 1 pm
Probably the 2nd best game of the week, just not sure if I want KC to lose or the Titans… maybe a tie.
Lions @ Rams (-16.0). 4:05pm
This could get very lopsided, very quickly, and yanno what? GOOD. Matt Stafford deserved better in Detroit. I hope he goes off for six TDs and 500 yards passing.
Colts @ 49ers (-4.0). SNF
Two underwhelming teams… I mean… it’s football, so I’ll watch it.
Rank ‘Em !
With the recent news about Ronnie Stanley’s season ending injury… and yes, there’s some legit concern about the remainder of his career… there’s been plenty of draft talk by the Ravens Flock this week on the Twitters. As such, I’ll drop my ‘way too early’ offseason needs for the NFL draft.
- Offensive Tackle. If you go into 2022 relying on JaJuan James (hasn’t played 10+ games since 2019), Ronnie Stanley (3x ankle surgeries in less than 12 months), Alejandro Villanueva (34 years old) and Patrick Mekari? You’re not doing Lamar Jackson any favors.
- Cornerback. Marcus Peters is coming off an ACL, Jimmy Smith is year-to-year these days, Averett is likely gone, and the Ravens direly need help here.
- Defensive Line. Just an old unit that needs a big-time youth infusion. Brandon Williams & Calais Campbell could both be gone which could change the level of priority here.
- Interior Offensive Line. This can be swapped with number five on the list if Bradley Bozeman is re-signed, but it’s still a priority because of the ambiguity at the guard position. Tyre Phillips… Ben Cleveland… Ben Powers… I’m not totally sold on any of them.
- Outside Linebacker. Houston likely isn’t back, Pernell McPhee is at the end of the line, and realistically, Baltimore is rallying on just Oweh, Daelin Hayes (who has barely seen the field), and Tyus Bowser. Need more pass rushers!