KEY MATCHUP: The Ravens offensive line against the Bengals pass rush. The biggest note here is that All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins won’t play in this game, or any other for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. Now as bad as the Ravens offensive line has been, they’ve actually been grading out better on tape the last few weeks. They have to give Joe Flacco time. They have to let him be comfortable in the pocket. It’s the only way the Ravens can generate offense since their run game is futile at best.
THE RAVENS WIN IF: The win the turnover battle. Cincinnati has a -4 turnover differential. The Jets are the only other above .500 team in the AFC with a worse differential. Most of the Bengals giveaways have been courtesy of Andy Dalton, who is near the league leaders in interceptions (again!). With the Bengals stingy defense, the Ravens will need extra possessions to put points on the board.
THE RAVENS LOSE IF: They don’t contain Giovani Bernard. He’s the Bengals’ Ray Rice. He can run it, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. And he can catch it, eighth in the NFL in receptions for running backs. He’s also had success in the middle of the field, where the Ravens defense is the weakest. They better find a way to contain him.
FANTASY TIP: How can you not take a flier on Marlon Brown. The rookie continues to be a big red zone threat. And with Torrey Smith continuing to see double-coverage and brackets over the top, Brown will be a viable target throughout the game.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: The Ravens season. If they lose this game, their season is over. While they won’t be mathematically eliminated, they will need more help than our federal government! Baltimore hasn’t lost four in a row since 2007. They haven’t lost to the Bengals at home since 2009. Calling this a must win for the Ravens is a grand understatement.
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