Flying with the Flock: Ravens vs Bengals Week 2 Preview
RAVENS VS BENGALS WEEK 2 PREVIEW – Just once, it would be nice to see the Bengals play a full-strength Ravens roster. But with four key starters likely out, Baltimore has no such luck.
Bad Start Bengals
Recent history indicates that the time to play the Bengals is early in the season – specifically, in September, a month in which they’ve had a 3-4 record since the 2021 season. Despite their transforming into a late-season buzzsaw each of the past two seasons, the Bengals have failed to get off to hot starts.
Last week against the Browns, Cincy looked like a Bengals team of old. They were sloppy and unimaginative and lacked their typical energy and swagger in a 24-3 loss to Cleveland. Whether it was the rain, or Myles Garrett and the rest of the Browns front tattooing him every other play, Joe Burrow played terribly.
His 33.3% bad-throw percentage was the worst in the league, and he had the second-lowest EPA per drop back. It’s hard not to wonder if the calf strain that sidelined him for nearly all of training camp was a source of rust or discomfort. There’s nowhere to go but up after a week one performance like that, and a chance to get back against another division rival should light a fire under the whole organization.
Room For Improvement
The Ravens managed to get the win in week one, but they, too, are coming off a disappointing showing. Injuries and a failure to execute left a sour taste in the fanbase’s collective mouth. I speculated that the Ravens didn’t fully empty their bag of tricks against an under-matched Texans team the week before heading to Cincinnati. Whether Monken has more up his sleeve or not, the Ravens must show more discipline.
Leading the league in penalties is unacceptable, but not totally shocking. Lamar was rusty, the scheme was new, and kinks had to be worked out. These struggles are fine against the Texans in the first week of the season, but they cannot repeat against the Bengals.
Aside from too many penalties, there are plenty of takeaways from game one of the Monken regime. For one, 11 personnel is clearly his grouping of choice. The numbers vary on how often he ran it depending on how Ricard is statted. I chose to stat him as a tight end when lined up as such. Calculating it this way yields a 68.3% rate of 11 personnel, good for the 13th-highest mark in the NFL.
In short, this means Cincinnati won’t be preparing for the same old Ravens. But to truly stress the Bengals, Baltimore must do a better job of involving all of their receivers. Zay Flowers got a heavy workload, but Beckham, Bateman, and Agholar were all quiet. Mark Andrews’ return should provide a sense of familiarity for Jackson and help the Ravens move the chains more consistently. The offensive line struggled a bit even when Linderbaum and Stanley were playing; the prospect of playing a full game without those two is disconcerting.
Copy and Paste?
Last week, Mike Macdonald showed he’s not interested in putting his ragtag bunch of corners in unfavorable positions. He ran soft coverage and sent four most of the game against CJ Stroud and the Texans. I don’t anticipate his turning around and deciding to get aggressive now that he’s playing Joe Burrow and the Bengals.
Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen were phenomenal, each notching a sack as well as countless tackles made running sideline to sideline. If those two can dominate once again, it will allow the Ravens to stay in two-deep shells that should prevent the Bengals’ explosive plays. If the hot starts continue from David Ojabo, who recorded his second career sack and forced fumble last week, and Odafe Oweh, who earned the highest PFF grade of his career, the Ravens might have a formula for shutting down Cincinnati.
Injuries are no excuse. Lamar and his receivers are healthy; that’s all that matters. This is currently the Ravens’ most-hated rival, and recently, the Bengals have had the upper hand. Reeling, cornered, and facing a potential 0-2 start, this Cincinnati team won’t go down without a fight. It’s just week two, but a win here would go a long way towards the Ravens regaining their perch atop the AFC North.
No matter what, these division games come down to the wire. I predict the league’s only cool kicker propels the Ravens to a 2-0 start.