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

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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.

Ray Rice is an absolute "Beast," Image Courtesy of sportsillustrated.cnn.com

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.

Zimmer's Defense has been somewhat perplexing to Flacco, Image Courtesy of cleveland.com

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.

Special Teams

Poor David Reed, Image Courtesy of life.com

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.

Prediction:

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.

Let me know what you think, and send me your thoughts

Follow me on Twitter (@DominicDiTolla)

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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.)