Ravens (7-4) @ Bengals (1-9-1)
After totally dismantling the Eagles last week, this week the Ravens get the other half of this season’s infamous tie game, the Cincy Bengals. The Bengals have truly reverted to their “Bungle” ways of old in a big way in 2008, and could set a new record for franchise futility, which would be pretty impressive considering who we are talking about. Some of the Bengals players could really care less about that, but others have way too much pride to go down without a fight, and those are the ones that worry us this week. T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Chad Ocho Cinco. Dhani Jones. All good players stuck in a terrible situation, who would love nothing more than to throw one big kink into the Ravens’ postseason plans.
From the moment Carson Palmer went out after nearly beating the New York Giants in Week 3, this Cincy team never really stood a chance. Their backup quarterback, a guy out of Harvard named Ryan Fitzpatrick, is no Carson Palmer. Fitzpatrick has been improving week by week, but he simply does not have the ability to get the ball into the hands of the Bengals only playmakers, their receivers, the way Palmer could. He has thrown 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, been sacked 28 times in 7 games, and has lost 4 fumbles. One area where he can be more dangerous than Palmer, though, is his ability to make plays with his legs. Fitzpatrick has ran for 190 yards this season, averaging 6 yards per scramble. Typically, a Ravens defense has no problem with such players (See: Vick, Michael), but we remember Chad Pennington moving the chains on scrambles in the Miami game, so this is something to watch out for.
After the clinic they put on last week, the Ravens secondary will really have their work cut out for them. Houshmandzadeh, Ocho Cinco, and Chris Henry are as good a receiving corps as there is in the NFL. In week 1, a 17-10 victory, they did a great job against them, holding them to 66 yards on 4 catches COMBINED. The Ravens are without the services of Chris McAlister this time around though, so it will be up to Samari Rolle and Fabian Washington to step up their games. Generating a good pass rush will also be critical, as Ocho Cinco and Houshmandzadeh will get open easily if given a few seconds. On the ground, the Bengals are a non-threat. Their starting running back is the now certifiable bust, Cedric Benson. Benson put together one 100-yard game this season, in the Bengals sole win (over the Jacksonvile Jaguars) but has broke 50 yards just once in his other games this year. The Ravens should have no problem making the Bengals 1-dimensional, a situation that should give Ryan Fitzpatrick purple nightmares as the game approaches.
Joe Flacco, who regained his turnover-free form last week, will face his last “easy” defense for a long time. He looked a bit slow against the Eagles last week, especially early on, so this week is a chance for him to get one more warm-up under his belt before the defenses lining up across from him get really tough in the coming weeks. He will be aided, as always, by his 3-headed rushing attack, who are licking their chops at the Bengals’ 24th-ranked run defense. Who will step up this week? It was Le’Ron McClain against Philly and Willis McGahee before him against Houston (obviously, none of them stepped up in New York), so perhaps it will be Ray Rice’s turn to shine again.
The injury report could be the Ravens’ most potent foe this week. All 3 “starting” tackles, Willie Anderson, Adam Terry, and Jared Gaither, are banged up. Gaither did not practice Thursday or Friday, while Anderson and Terry were limited. Wide receivers Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton were also both limited on Friday, but should play. Wide receiver Terrence Copper finally returned to practice this week, but still on a limited basis. The Bengals have injury issues of their own, as 5 of the 11 defensive starters they put on the field in Baltimore in Week 1 are now on injured reserve.
The Ravens have not won in Cincinnati since 2004, and the Bengals have had 10 days to prepare for this game, as they last played a week ago Thursday in Pittsburgh, where they absorbed a 27-10 beating. This may have been a “trap game” in years past, but this 2008 team has shown us that they have no problem beating up on lesser teams, which the Bengals certainly are. The festivus talk will be continuing in full force after another purple beat-down.
Ravens 30 Bengals 10