Week 17: Baltimore Ravens At Cincinnati Bengals
- QuarterbackThe Ravens may have more problems than any team that has already clinched a playoff berth. The offense was not functioning smoothly until the Week 16 33-14 win over the Giants. While many viewed Joe Flacco as an elite quarterback at the start of the season, he has not played to that level in the second half of the season.The Bengals believe that Andy Dalton is one of the best young quarterbacks in the game. While he may not be in the class of RGIII, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton, he is a big, strong signal caller who can see over the top of the defense and throw the ball accurately.
- OffenseThe Ravens’ best player is running back Ray Rice. The Ravens need to use him more. Former offensive coordinator was not doing that enough and that’s the primary reason the Ravens got rid of him in the season’s late stages. Torrey Smith is not getting open and making big plays the way he did earlier in the season.The Bengals have a hard-working and productive runner BenJarvus Green-Ellis who punishes opposing tacklers. Wide receiver A.J. Green is one of the best big-play receivers in the league. He has the speed to run past defensive backs and the athletic ability to leap over them and make plays.
- DefenseThe Ravens have been poor on defense this season and that’s not what you expect from this team. They rank 25th in overall defense and 26th against the run. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis (torn triceps) may be able to return for this game, but his arm has atrophied as a result of the injury and it will be difficult for him to tackle. The Ravens defense has been getting pummeled on the line of scrimmage.The Bengals have the manpower and strength up front in Geno Atkins and Domata Peko to compete hard against Rice, who is probably the best running back in football not named Adrian Peterson. Outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict may be the most underrated defensive player in the league. He is a solid tackler.
- Special TeamsAdam Jones has been an excellent performer for the Bengals as a punt returner, while Brandon Tate has been solid as a kickoff returner. Josh Brown has been asked to fill in for regular placekicker Mike Nugent, who has not recovered from his calf injury. The Bengals do a solid job of covering punt and kickoff returns.The Ravens have the best special teams coverage units in the league. They have a significant advantage on punt and kickoff returns. Jacoby Jones is elusive and explosive, having returned two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns. Placekicker Justin Tucker has been very consistent for head coach John Harbaugh.
The Bengals clinched a playoff berth with their win over the Steelers, and they can head into the playoffs with significant momentum if they can win this game. While beating Baltimore on its home turf will be challenging, the Bengals have proven their resiliency this season.