Flying With the Flock: Ravens vs. Bengals Black & Blue
No more excuses. If Baltimore finds a way to lose this game, the fanbase might revolt. It’s one thing to drop a couple early-season games to the Bills and Dolphins. But the Bengals? Oh no, this one needs to be crisp.
The Bengals embarrassed and disrespected Baltimore twice last year, outscoring the Ravens by a combined 43 points between the two matchups. This game has been circled on Ravens fans’ schedules since the schedule came out. It calls for every facet of this organization to be on point on Sunday.
John Harbaugh: manage the game properly, play gutsy, but not reckless.
Greg Roman: open up the vault and trust Lamar in this one.
Patrick Queen: hop on youtube before the game and look up “how to catch a football.”
Cafeteria staff: whip up something delicious and nutritious to maximize the players’ performance, because this one matters.
Don’t Play Me Like That
The thought of playing man coverage against Lamar Jackson is enough to make some coaches crawl under the covers and call out sick the night before the game.
Week 2 was the season’s high watermark of facing man coverage, as Miami ran it 73.5% of the time against Jackson, per PFF. He responded by dicing them up and dropping 38 points on them.
Every week since then, teams facing Baltimore have been more conservative in their defensive playcalling. Dropping their rates of man coverage and forcing the Ravens to play slow.
The Bengals’ defense has followed the same trajectory, decreasing their man rates every single week this season. This means Lamar will once again have an opportunity to prove himself as a patient quarterback. If the Bengals keep two safeties deep and don’t respect the run game, Baltimore will have to be comfortable driving down 5 yards at a time on the ground.
Rashod Bateman being out in this one is tough, and might lead to Cincy running a more aggressive defensive approach than described. I’m getting tired of speculating about the health of Ronnie Stanley every week so I won’t get ahead of myself.
If Stanley doesn’t play, get ready to hear Trey Hendrickson’s name a lot. Hendrickson isn’t the only Bengals edge rusher who can cause problems. Sam Hubbard has been a force this season off the edge against the run and the pass. More consistent tackle play will be necessary to keep Lamar upright.
A Chess Match
Where this matchup becomes absolutely fascinating is the battle between Baltimore’s defense and the Bengals offense.
On the back end, it’s strength versus strength. The Ravens know all about the Bengals receivers who toasted the secondary twice last season. But these aren’t the same dfefensive backs. Free safety Marcus Williams has been phenomenal and should help to negate those big plays over the top.
After missing all of last season, cornerback Marcus Peters should play against the Bengals for the first time since the 2020 season. If Juiceman is in this game, it becomes must-watch TV. Expect a lot of trash talk and trolling throughout. You can always tell how well the game is going for Peters by how often he has his mouthpiece in. I’m hoping to see it dangling for all four quarters.
In the trenches, it’s a battle of weaknesses. The Ravens’ D-line continues to fail to generate pressure. The team is 24th in the league in pressure percentage, per Pro Football Reference. What they have going for them is that they’re facing arguably the worst line they’ll see all season.
Bengals left guard Cordell Volson has been an absolute liability for the team, so Justin Madibuike and Baltimore’s other interior players should have a field day. If they can make Joe Burrow at the very least uncomfortable, that’s a win and improvement from last year.
Patrick Queen and the defense in general must tackle better to win this one. The Ravens’ have the second-most missed tackles of any team, a terrifying number when you consider who they’ll have to try and bring down on Sunday.
The Bengals seem to gain strength every week this season. They’ve shifted from running nearly all of their plays out of the shotgun in week 1 to over a quarter of of them under center by week 4.
It hasn’t helped their dismal run game all that much, but it has improved the efficiency of the passing game. Cincinnati is a tough matchup for the Ravens but much like last week’s Sunday Night game, one team has something to prove and history to right. There’s truly bad blood between these current rosters, which is a rarity in today’s NFL and I think the atmosphere in Baltimore should be electric. It’ll be tough but the Ravens take this one.