Bengals vs Ravens Preview: Can the Bengals Get Back On Track?

Injuries, match-ups, keys to the game and our prediction.

AP Photo

This Sunday, the Bengals face off against the Baltimore Ravens for their second match-up of the season. Both teams are desperate for a win, and Sunday’s game is sure to be entertaining. This AFC North showdown is going to be a hard-fought battle, and the Bengals can get back on track with a win.

A Look Back

The Bengals (5-4) were completely destroyed by the New Orleans Saints 51-14 due to a combination of injuries, horrible effort and bad coaching. This led to the well-deserved firing of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who probably should have been let go during the bye week. Combined with the fact that the referees missed easy calls early in the game, the Bengals were annihilated.

The Ravens (4-5) are coming off of their bye week. After a disappointing 23-16 loss to the Steelers in week 9, Baltimore is continuing to plummet after a 4-1 start that had many analysts labeling them as contenders.

Injury Updates

For Cincinnati, it seems like a key player is down every game. This week is no different, as Joe Mixon appeared on the practice report with a knee injury. Knowing Mixon’s energy and passion, he’ll probably play against the Ravens but may not be 100% healthy.

A.J. Green, Nick Vigil and Preston Brown will all miss Sunday’s game with lingering injuries. There is some good news however, as Vontaze Burfict and Darqueze Dennard are returning this week to a defense that desperately needs help.

Baltimore is relatively healthy, except for the most important position on the field. Joe Flacco did not practice at all this week due to a hip injury, and it is unknown whether he will play on Sunday or not. Backup quarterback Lamar Jackson also missed Thursday’s practice with an illness, which leaves Robert Griffin III as the only healthy Ravens quarterback left.

Match-ups to Watch

Geno Atkins vs. Marshal Yanda – After starting off the season strong with 6 sacks in the first 5 games, Geno Atkins has been quiet these last few games. He hasn’t registered a sack or TFL (tackle for loss) since week 5. He’s going up against 6-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda, who is consistently one of the top guards in the league. If Geno can return to his former self, the Bengals defense will be a force. In the 4 games that Atkins has registered a sack, Cincinnati is 4-0.

Alex Collins vs. Vontaze Burfict – If Joe Flacco is unable to play, then the Ravens will lean heavily on their rushing offense. Baltimore’s offense hasn’t been great on the ground, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry as a team. Vontaze Burfict is likely to return after a hip injury kept him out of last week’s game. His impressive run-stuffing ability would be put to the test against RB Alex Collins, who relies on his power and tackle-breaking abilities.

Cordy Glenn vs. Terrell Suggs – Cordy Glenn has had an up-and-down season so far, performing well in some games and consistently breaking down in others. He’s going to have to come out strong against Terrell Suggs, who is still producing at a high level in his 16th NFL season. He has 5.5 sacks on the year, and is a force to be reckoned with in the run game. When they Bengals beat the Ravens in week 2, they didn’t allow a single sack. If Glenn can help keep the pocket clean for Andy Dalton, then notching a win becomes much easier.

Keys to Victory

Get Everyone Involved in the Offense – Hue Jackson returned to the Bengals after getting fired from his job as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Although many NFL fans ridiculed the move, it’s important to remember that Jackson was offensive coordinator during the 2015 season in which the Bengals went 12-4.

He won’t be taking over Bill Lazor’s spot, but his presence around the team should be felt on Sunday. In last week’s loss against the Saints, Tyler Boyd and John Ross were targeted 10 times. All other wide receivers saw 3 total targets, with a few coming in garbage time. If the Bengals want to catch the Ravens defense off-guard, they should spread the ball around and get all of the wide receivers involved.

Contain the Quarterback – As RGIII/Lamar Jackson starting on Sunday seems more and more like the reality of the situation, the Bengals have to keep them in the pocket. Cincinnati has typically had problems with mobile quarterbacks such as Cam Newton and Deshaun Watson, so they need to force either of the Ravens’ backups to pass the ball. If Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson can keep the Baltimore quarterbacks in the pocket, the Bengals defense can have a big day.

Andy Dalton Needs to Step Up – Last week, the Bengals offense looked dreadful without A.J. Green. They obviously weren’t going to be as good, but putting up 14 points against one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL is unacceptable. Andy Dalton had arguably his worst game of the season, failing to hit wide-open teammates and struggling with his field vision. In week 2 against the Ravens, he was practically unstoppable. If the Bengals are going to bounce back in Baltimore, Dalton is going to have to show up.

Game Prediction

This game is going to be close, with both teams playing hard in order to stay in the playoff race. Both teams are going to come out strong, with the bulk of the scoring likely coming off of big plays. The quarterback play for Baltimore will be mediocre, whether it is an injured Joe Flacco or an inexperienced backup lining up behind the center.

My Prediction

Bengals – 24

Ravens – 20

Cincinnati has had to play tough opponents lately, but they’re not as bad of a team as analysts think. They have impact players on defense and a young offense full of energy. Against a Ravens team that has lost 4 straight and has multiple quarterback injuries, the Bengals should be able to pull out a win and sweep the season series. Who dey!

Written by Zach Bachar

New Yorker, college student, lifelong Bengals fanatic. WHODEY!

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