Baltimore Offense vs. Cincinnati Defense
Mike Zimmer has had Joe Flacco’s number ever since the youngster from Delaware came into the N.F.L.. Even though he has fielded some less than stellar units in terms of talent, Zimmer seems to have his boys ready to play when they face the Ravens and Joe Flacco.
The Ravens’ Offense is actually quite good and are much better than their rankings indicate (15th YPG and 9th Points). Nevertheless, the Ravens just haven’t been able to really scratch the surface of how dangerous they can be. I know that I have been prone to criticize Bruce Arians a great deal on this website, but how Ravens fans haven’t rioted over Cam Cameron’s play-calling and game-plans over the last couple of seasons is nothing short of remarkable.
The ultimate key to the Ravens’ Offense is Ray Rice, and that is a fact I don’t think anybody can dispute. It is Rice who is an absolute terror out of the backfield on runs and it is Rice who is an absolute nightmare as a pass catcher for the opposition (559 yards rushing and 470 yards receiving).
That being said, Rice getting almost no touches again like he did against Seattle last Sunday is probably not going to happen. Cincinnati must hold firm against the run if they wish to have a shot against stopping Baltimore from doing the rest of what they do Offensively.
If Rice is getting 5+ per clip on the ground it could be all over for the Bengals. Flacco can throw to his TE’s in Ed Dickson (who looked great against Seattle) and Dennis Pitta, or he could simply have Rice destroy them on check-downs. If he wants to, Flacco can find Anquan Boldin or the speedster Torrey Smith if Cincinnati has to dedicate too many men to the box to stop Rice. And if those two get open against the Secondary minus Hall, it’s pretty much a no win situation for Cincinnati.
Luckily, Cincinnati has the Defensive unit that might be able to neutralize the Ravens’ rushing attack, and in turn hold the Ravens in check. This is mainly because the Bengals boast the League’s #1 ranked Rush Defense (86.8 YPG). If Peko, Malaluga, and the rest of the Cincinnati Run Defense step up to the plate when it comes to containing Rice, then Zimmer can put Flacco behind the proverbial “8 Ball” and harass him when he drops back like he has so many times throughout Joe’s career to the tune of: 3-3 Record, 4 TD Passes, 1 TD Run, 9 INT’s, 13 times Sacked, and 4 straight games under 200 yards passing.
If the Bengals can provide adequate pressure with their Front 4 on passing downs (like they did against Pittsburgh), it will be a long day for Flacco who will not have sizable throwing lanes, long completion opportunities, or high percentage throws to make with 7 Bengal Defenders in coverage. Moreover, if heat is brought upon Flacco, he is more-or-less shackled and is at a total disadvantage. I personally screamed until I was red in the face cursing Dick LeBeau because he sent essentially no heat at Flacco in their last matchup and it really cost the Steelers at the end of the game.
When asked to stand straight-up in the pocket, there are few N.F.L. QB’s that can best Flacco in terms of throwing the football. Yet on the run and under pressure is where Flacco seems to falter. Zimmer I’m sure recognizes this, but it will be a matter of how his Defense fares against Rice that will determine how their, and Baltimore’s Offense’s Day goes. Flacco can’t throw the ball 50+ times to win, because it’s a recipe for disaster.
I’m sure Ravens fans would like to forget David Reed and his butter-fingers last week, so all I will say on that matter is that Reed (or whoever is returning kicks) this week had better get their crap together and not fumble deep in Ravens territory. No matter how putrid an Offense is (cough) Seattle (cough), getting the ball at an opponents 25 doesn’t make them worse.
While Billy Cundiff has struggled at times this season (21 for 27 Field Goals), he’s still a Pro Bowl Kicker and isn’t a bad option for the Ravens to have when they need him. “The Queen City Madman” Mike Nugent (Ted Nugent reference by the way to anybody under 30), has made 17 of 18 Field Goals this season. While all of his kicks have been under 50 yards, having an almost 95% FG percentage is nothing to dismiss.
In terms of Cincinnati’s Return game, look for Sam Koch to try and stop Brandon Tate, who has had himself quite the season with the Bengals in 2011, with some booming and high-hang-time punts. Tate has already taken a punt back for a TD this season, and Cincinnati will need points any way that they can get them tomorrow. Kinda makes you wonder why New England would let this guy go. But hey, I’m not complaining.
Ravens 20 – Bengals 16
Personally, as much as I would love to see the Bengals win this game, and as much as I think Zimmer’s boys will bring the wood to Flacco Cincinnati will come up just short this Sunday. Baltimore’s Defense (and team) will be utterly pissed after last Sunday’s egg-laying in Seattle, and they will probably look to get rid of all that has been eating at them in the last 6 days off their chest and assault Andy Dalton. Missing Lewis will hurt (if he doesn’t go), but I don’t think that it will be quite enough.
Will the Ravens have a Gatorade bath for Harbaugh if they win? Probably. Will the city of Baltimore have a ticker-tape parade? Probably not. Yet regardless of how the Ravens choose to celebrate if they get their crap together and win, Cincinnati will have to have big games from any/all of the following to pull this game out: Dalton, Gruden, Zimmer, and the Front 4. Marvin Lewis’ guys need to be ready to play, otherwise Baltimore will be there front and center to give them and their Rookie QB a hearty ass-whipping.
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