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Flying with the Flock: Ravens at Bengals Playoff Preview

Ravens at Bengals Playoff Preview

RAVENS AT BENGALS PLAYOFF PREVIEW – This game is an organizational gut check.

The Joe Burrow-era Bengals have owned the Ravens without Lamar Jackson. Burrow is 3-0 versus Lamar-less Ravens teams with an average margin of victory of over 23 points.

That track record might be enough to convince some fans that this will be another Bengals beatdown, but I, the delusional Ravens fan, foresee a different outcome. 

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Does Defense Win Championships?

The only way the Ravens have a shot in this game is if the defense puts together an elite performance.

They’ve held the Bengals to under 20 points once this season. Doing so again would go a long way towards a victory.

In last week’s matchup, Cincinnati cashed in twice on advantageous field position gifted to them by Anthony Brown’s careless first quarter. Brown’s third turnover of the game, a fumble, was recovered by the Bengals in the endzone in the second quarter.

Given Brown’s doing everything he could to help the Bengals, the Ravens’ defense played pretty well. They held Cincy to only three second-half points. The return of Marcus Peters should provide a lift for a secondary that already did a decent job corralling the Bengals’ three-headed monster at receiver.

The D-Line

Baltimore’s D-line got after Joe Burrow a week ago, beating stand-in right tackle La’el Collins at will. The Bengals cannot seem to secure any decent players to protect their franchise quarterback and they’ll be without guard Alex Cappa in this game.

It’ll be fun to see David Ojabo with another start under his belt. His strip sack of Joe Burrow should provide some confidence for the young edge rusher.

Bengals Five-Wide

After last season’s success in the formation, the Bengals figured they could run five-wide to let Joe Burrow pick apart the Ravens’ defense a week ago. But a healthy secondary makes a world of difference and Baltimore’s DBs were up to the task, holding Burrow to only 215 yards on 42 attempts.

These teams’ familiarity with one another was apparent, as multiple Cincinnati screen passes were quickly diagnosed and snuffed out behind the line of scrimmage.

Just as the Ravens buffed up their front seven following their loss to the Titans in 2019, last offseason’s investment in the secondary was constructed for this exact moment.

Run. The. Ball. 

This game must be played clean. A single turnover could do the Ravens in, and the best way to avoid that is by keeping the ball on the ground.

Whether it’s Tyler Huntley or Anthony Brown playing quarterback for the Ravens, neither should have over 15 pass attempts.

The Ravens beat the Browns in week seven while only throwing the ball 16 times. That game plan should be the blueprint for this one, and J.K. Dobbins’ presence makes the approach viable.

Jordan Stout

I don’t think I’ve mentioned punter Jordan Stout once all season, but his performance is essential to getting the win. There are going to be a lot of Ravens punts in this game, so it’s vital Stout can consistently pin the Bengals deep in their own territory and make them drive the length of the field.

The motto for this game should be “no freebies.” The Ravens need to play within their means on offense and make the Bengals earn every yard against Baltimore’s defense.

J.K. Dobbins

With a superhero-type performance, J.K. Dobbins has a chance to put this team on his back and propel them to the next round of the playoffs. If the run game gets going like it needs to, Anthony Brown is better suited for this game than Tyler Huntley.

He has a bigger arm and in his first start last week, he pushed the ball farther downfield than we’ve seen Huntley do all season. A few big throws off play action could be all the Ravens need to win this game.

Final Thoughts

It isn’t reasonable to expect this offense to suddenly hit its stride and score a ton of points. It isn’t reasonable to expect Greg Roman to convert in the red zone; his 30th-ranked red zone offense is proof enough of that.

What is reasonable, is to expect complementary, turnover-free football.

On defense, there can be no busted coverages, no dropped interceptions, and almost no missed tackles. This needs to be the unit’s cleanest performance of the season to overcome Lamar’s absence.

This is a winnable game, but it will require a stellar game plan, and nothing the Ravens’ coaches have done this season makes me think they’ll deliver.

Ravens 13, Bengals 27

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