By Samuel Njoku
The Baltimore Ravens need a little bit of help to make it into the playoffs this year. But for them to even have a shot at the postseason, they need a win against the Bengals in Cincinnati. The Bengals have yet to lose at home this year. If Baltimore wants to give them their first loss, they’ll need to shut down a few special Cincinnati players.
Bengals on Offense
The Bengals are still on the fence about whether Andy Dalton is the answer at quarterback. One thing we do know is that this team only goes as far as Dalton is able to take them. Sometimes he can make them look like Super Bowl contenders, and other times he shows up the way he did the last time these two teams met. In Baltimore, the Bengals were defeated 20-17 in a game many thought they should have won. In that game, the Bengals couldn’t get anything going until the fourth quarter when they scored a last-second Hail Mary to send the game into overtime. Cincinnati hopes that they will be able to move the ball like they did against the Vikings last week when Dalton scored four touchdowns.
If Dalton isn’t able to get it going, they have two backs in Gio Bernard and Benjarvus Green-Ellis who can wear down any opposing defense. The Ravens will need to try to take these two out of the game and force their starting QB to beat them with his arm. If he isn’t able to do so, Cincinnati could be in trouble.
Bengals on Defense
The Ravens recent struggles on offense couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time as the Bengals have one of the better defenses in all of football. They’ve done a good job of making plays when they have to. It’ll be extremely important for the Ravens to keep the turnovers to a minimum. The Bengals have the play-makers to take advantage of poor mistakes and the Ravens have little room for error in this contest. On Sunday against the Vikings, the Bengals forced four turnovers. One of those turnovers was returned for a touchdown. If Baltimore loses the turnover battle in this game, they’re done for the season.
The Ravens should try to establish the run game as they attempted to do against the Patriots before the game got away from them. You better believe the Bengals will be focused on containing Ray Rice. Though that task has seemed to be easy enough for teams in 2013, the Bengals won’t underestimate Ray Rice when they have a chance to knock their division foe out of the postseason.
As for Joe Flacco, neither the Bengals nor the Ravens know what they’ll see on Sunday. That’s partly due to the fact that Flacco is nursing a knee injury that appeared to bother him against New England. Not even Flacco will use his knee as an excuse for his poor performance, but it’s something Cincinnati will keep in mind on game day. Expect Cincinnati to bring the heat in order to test how well Flacco can hold up with his injury.
Marvin Lewis is the coach for the Cincinnati Bengals and was a former defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens when they won their first Super Bowl in 2001. Lewis has led the Bengals to their second AFC North title in five years. The Ravens currently lead the all-time series 20-15.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.