Dom’s Preview and Discussion of Sunday’s Bengals vs. Ravens game

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Who will win this critical A.F.C. North matchup? Image Courtesy of life.com

As a Steeler fan I’m so glad this Bye Week is almost over.  I love following the N.F.L, but getting psyched about a week where the Steelers don’t play is tough.  Nevertheless, there is actually one matchup this week that Steeler Nation needs to particularly follow.  Don’t get me wrong, if you want some analysis and discussions about the aforementioned game from the blogs that exclusively follow the Bengals and Ravens, check out the fantastic Fansided blogs “Stripe Hype” and “Ebony Bird.”  Those people really know their stuff and each site should be littered with great analysis and previews from those blogs’ writers.

However, I wanted to write another article on this specific game for those Steelers fans that may not be paying attention to what will be a crucial A.F.C. North game.  So here’s a Steeler Fan’s preview and discussion of the upcoming Bengals vs. Ravens game.  Hit that “Continue Reading” button and let’s get started:

Intro./Status of the A.F.C. North:

As I’ve repeated over and over again, this game affects not only Baltimore and Cincinnati, but the Steelers as well.  If 6-3 Cincinnati wins, they will in turn help the 7-3 Steelers who will remain in 1st place in the A.F.C. North due to the tie-breaker scenario involved with both of these teams so far this season.  This is what all of us in Steeler Nation need to root for: a Bengals victory.  If 6-3 Baltimore wins on the other hand, they will be in a 1st place tie with the Steelers atop the Division due to their tie-breaker over the Steelers.  Regardless of what happens, the balance of power in the A.F.C. North will receive a shake-up when the final gun sounds on Sunday.

Matchups/Discussion:

Cincinnati Offense vs. Baltimore Defense

If the Bengals are going to have any shot of success moving the football, I feel that Bengals Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden really needs to make a dedicated but tough choice on how to attack Baltimore’s aging but still effective Defense.

While it may not be 2000, Baltimore’s Run Defense is still stout with Haloti Ngata,  Terrell Suggs, and Ray Lewis jumping on every pile to accumulate Tackle statistics (that is, if Lewis plays, word is he might be out for the game and that would be a huge win for the Bengals).

That being said, Cincinnati could try to gamble and rely on their RB-duo Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott to shoulder the load, eat clock, and take multiple beatings to take the pressure off of Rookie QB Andy “Ginger-Vitis” Dalton.  It’s the classic game plan to attempt to thwart any aggressive Defense that is looking to confuse a young QB and capitalize on his mistakes.  Then with the opposition loading the box, hit them with some play-action passes.

Andy Dalton must come up big, Image Courtesy of sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Yet Gruden could go with a different strategy if he feels that Benson and Scott may be unable to make an impact.  I mean the Bengals have the League’s 20th Ranked Rushing Offense in terms of YPG and they are facing a Ravens Run Defense that is only allowing 90.3 YPG on the ground (Tied for 3rd).  Sure Cincinnati ran the ball pretty well on the Steelers last Sunday, but Pittsburgh’s Run Defense (especially on Zone Run Plays) has been atrocious all season long and is not of the caliber that Baltimore’s is.  So, unless the Bengals’ Offensive Line can get a decent push on Ngata and the rest of the Ravens’ D-Line it will be tough sledding all day.  And if the Bengals are stuck in Neutral too long, only bad can come from it.

However, Gruden could opt to go a different way on Offense against the Ravens.  As a way to get Dalton settled, Gruden could look to get his Rookie’s confidence up and have him get in a rhythm against Baltimore’s suspect Cornerbacks with short, quick throws to his Backs, Ends, and to his WR’s.  Look for TE Jermaine Gresham to be heavily involved if this occurs and Baltimore must find somebody that can cover what could be Dalton’s “security blanket” on Sunday.  Of course, if A.J. Green is healthy enough to play, he will be an X-Factor and could come up with some splash plays that could kill the Ravens.  But it will be up to Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, and Gresham if Green isn’t in the game.  That’s a matchup that really favors Baltimore in my opinion, and each of those guys must really step-up their game in the event Green is a no-go.

This aforementioned strategy has only one way of succeeding however, and that is “Ginger-Vitis” being allowed ample time to throw the rock even on the quick throws.  Andrew Whitworth and Co. must provide adequate protection against the Ravens’ relentless pass rush.

Sure the Bengals stopped the Steelers from recording a Sack last weekend.  However, Dick LeBeau this season has been content to not send his boys at the QB and the Steelers’ LB’s just haven’t had their typical pass-rushing mojo in 2011.  Suggs could have a field day if the Bengals get behind and Dalton is forced to throw low-percentage and long drop-back passes early in the game.  Cue Future Hall of Famer and best FS in the League Ed Reed to take advantage with some INT’s if this is the case.  Thus, if Cincinnati’s Offense can’t rise to the occasion, and Baltimore’s Defense starts dominating, look for the home crowd to get involved and make it an absolute mad-house for Dalton.

Just an aside, I was thoroughly unimpressed with Dalton last week if I do say so myself.  And although he is a Rookie, he sure is getting quite the attention for playing some ball with a lot to be desired.  He made poor throw after poor throw in his 15-30 day against the Steelers where he threw 2 INT’s, and had trouble thowing downfield (especially over 10 yards) all game long.  The Green TD was a quail that should have fallen as an INT had the Safety with zero ball skills (Ryan Clark) actually known where it was.  Dalton did make two fine throws that afternoon (Gresham TD and the strike to get them inside the Red Zone), and that was about all I was impressed with.  Anyways, if Cincinnati Offense starts to sputter and they need to move down the field in large chunks, I might not count on Andy Dalton to do it against the Ravens.

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  • 9050Michael

    Realizing you are a Steeler fan, I. Understand your perception of Andy Dalton. However, allow me to interject. Firstly, were we watching the same game last Sunday? Your comments regarding Dalton’s poor passing is a farce. He went 15-30, yes. Out of his 15 misses, 5 were throw aways and 2 were dropped. On his 2 INTs, the first came out of the hands of Caldwell and second was a wrong route ran by Simpson. This rookie went up against one of the elite defensive coordinators in the business and almost beat him. For that matter, should have beat him. This team has 3 losses by a total of 14 points. That is not too shabby. Bengals win big in Baltimore even without Green in the lineup this week.

  • 9050Michael

    Realizing you are a Steeler fan, I. Understand your perception of Andy Dalton. However, allow me to interject. Firstly, were we watching the same game last Sunday? Your comments regarding Dalton’s poor passing is a farce. He went 15-30, yes. Out of his 15 misses, 5 were throw aways and 2 were dropped. On his 2 INTs, the first came out of the hands of Caldwell and second was a wrong route ran by Simpson. This rookie went up against one of the elite defensive coordinators in the business and almost beat him. For that matter, should have beat him. This team has 3 losses by a total of 14 points. That is not too shabby. Bengals win big in Baltimore even without Green in the lineup this week.

  • craig.gottschalk

    @9050Michael Well shoulda coulda woulda doesn’t count in this league. Dom is on point. Dalton wasn’t sharp that afternoon. He hung in there and got beat by staring down his receiver before William Gay jumped the route and burned Dalton. He’s got potential, so don’t get offended, but he has much work to do as a rookie.

  • 9050Michael

    No offense taken, Craig. I am also not screaming shoulda, coulda, woulda either. This article is a complete mis-conception on what actually transpired in the game. That is the point I wanted to make. Oh and the “Ginger-Vitus” referrence to Dalton is a real nice touch as well. It would be hard pressed for any 8th grade kid to come out with something on that level of originalty.

  • craig.gottschalk

    @9050Michael Well shoulda coulda woulda doesn’t count in this league. Dom is on point. Dalton wasn’t sharp that afternoon. He hung in there and got beat by staring down his receiver before William Gay jumped the route and burned Dalton. He’s got potential, so don’t get offended, but he has much work to do as a rookie.

  • 9050Michael

    No offense taken, Craig. I am also not screaming shoulda, coulda, woulda either. This article is a complete mis-conception on what actually transpired in the game. That is the point I wanted to make. Oh and the “Ginger-Vitus” referrence to Dalton is a real nice touch as well. It would be hard pressed for any 8th grade kid to come out with something on that level of originalty.

  • DomDiTolla

    @9050Michael

    Michael, no offense but maybe you should have watched the same game everybody else watched. Go back and take a look at that 1st INT. It was a bad throw by Dalton to even leave the pass that high for Caldwell. And to his credit, it WAS Gay (not Caldwell) that punched it out. Caldwell had no realistic shot at catching that air-mailed pass, and had it not been for the timely tip, it likely would have fallen an an incompletion. Instead of capitalizing on great field position (around midfield), Dalton’s errant pass on the first play of the drive cost his team a chance to at least put 3 on the board.

    Also, Dalton telegraphed that pass that Gay Intercepted and Gay knew exactly what to do. With enough time left (over 2:00), Dalton could have kept relying on his running game that was responsible for keeping him in the game to that point.

    Moreover, on the woulda, coulda, shoulda front, that TD pass to Green was a dying quail and an ill-advised throw. On any other day Polamalu picks that pass off with ease, yet kudos to Green for catching that ball.

    It was a game that the Steelers should have ran away with and to their credit the Bengals fought their way back in it. But Dalton’s pedestrian day and mistakes cost the team on possessions when they needed him the most. Sorry to break it to you, but Dalton had almost an entire Quarter to tie the score, and had two drives that started at midfield. He committed two turnovers on two terrible throws in Pittsburgh territory. Not the mark of somebody that didn’t have a bad day already.

    If you got the impression that I think Dalton is an awful QB I’m sorry. I think he had an overall below average day in a game where his team was in fact lucky to be hanging around and I called him out on it. I’m sure he will evolve into a pretty damn good QB. The Bengals won’t many more games when he goes 15-30 and throws 2+ picks (Few teams can overcome days like that from their starting QB’s so don’t think I wouldn’t call out Big Ben if he had a day like that). Luckily we will see how good Dalton is this far into his career, because Cincy. has 3 more games against the Ravens and Steelers left on the schedule.

    (P.S.: Well what do you want me to call Dalton? Opie, Carrot-Top’s slightly more talented brother, Raggedy Andy, Little Orphan Andy, etc..? Are those up to your liking? I’m sorry your favorite team lost, but you can take your attitude and troll elsewhere sir, as it was all in jest.)

  • DomDiTolla

    @9050Michael

    Michael, no offense but maybe you should have watched the same game everybody else watched. Go back and take a look at that 1st INT. It was a bad throw by Dalton to even leave the pass that high for Caldwell. And to his credit, it WAS Gay (not Caldwell) that punched it out. Caldwell had no realistic shot at catching that air-mailed pass, and had it not been for the timely tip, it likely would have fallen an an incompletion. Instead of capitalizing on great field position (around midfield), Dalton’s errant pass on the first play of the drive cost his team a chance to at least put 3 on the board.

    Also, Dalton telegraphed that pass that Gay Intercepted and Gay knew exactly what to do. With enough time left (over 2:00), Dalton could have kept relying on his running game that was responsible for keeping him in the game to that point.

    Moreover, on the woulda, coulda, shoulda front, that TD pass to Green was a dying quail and an ill-advised throw. On any other day Polamalu picks that pass off with ease, yet kudos to Green for catching that ball.

    It was a game that the Steelers should have ran away with and to their credit the Bengals fought their way back in it. But Dalton’s pedestrian day and mistakes cost the team on possessions when they needed him the most. Sorry to break it to you, but Dalton had almost an entire Quarter to tie the score, and had two drives that started at midfield. He committed two turnovers on two terrible throws in Pittsburgh territory. Not the mark of somebody that didn’t have a bad day already.

    If you got the impression that I think Dalton is an awful QB I’m sorry. I think he had an overall below average day in a game where his team was in fact lucky to be hanging around and I called him out on it. I’m sure he will evolve into a pretty damn good QB. The Bengals won’t many more games when he goes 15-30 and throws 2+ picks (Few teams can overcome days like that from their starting QB’s so don’t think I wouldn’t call out Big Ben if he had a day like that). Luckily we will see how good Dalton is this far into his career, because Cincy. has 3 more games against the Ravens and Steelers left on the schedule.

    (P.S.: Well what do you want me to call Dalton? Opie, Carrot-Top’s slightly more talented brother, Raggedy Andy, Little Orphan Andy, etc..? Are those up to your liking? I’m sorry your favorite team lost, but you can take your attitude and troll elsewhere sir, as it was all in jest.)

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