By Daniel Benjamin
The Baltimore Ravens will be back at home for the third time in four games when they host the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. Kick-off is slated for 1 p.m. ET and the game will be televised on CBS.
The Ravens saw their two game winning streak come to an end Sunday as their top ranked defense—prior to Week 11’s game—was carved up to a tune of 417 yards by a pair of rookies in a 27-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The 417 total yards are the second most that the Ravens have surrendered this year.
Baltimore is sitting at 5-5 on the season, and are tied atop of the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5). The good news for the Ravens is that they currently win all three tie breakers over the Steelers: Head-to-head, division record and conference record.
This is the first meeting between the teams this year. The Bengals have won five straight to even the all-time series up at 20 wins apiece.
Cincinnati Bengals season record: 3-6-1
Cincinnati (3-6-1) has lost two straight and is winless in the last three games including their tie against the Redskins in London. The Bengals are coming off a 16-12 home loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon, where they were out-gained 342-300 in total yards. They also missed two extra points and committed two turnovers. Still, the Bengals had a chance to win the game, but Andy Dalton’s 30-yard heave was batted down by Bills’ defenders in the end zone.
Cincinnati is 1-4 on the road this season. The Bengals have been outscored by five points in the past two games, and by 27 points overall.
Bengals on offense
Cincinnati has had the same problems as the Ravens on offense. The Bengals move the ball down the field, but can’t get the pigskin into the end zone. They rank 9th in the league in total offense (372.7), 13th in passing and 12th in rushing (113.2), but only 25th in scoring (19.9).
The Bengals’ biggest problem is that they don’t have any playmakers at the skill positions besides wide receiver A.J. Green, who will not suit up against the Ravens due to a hamstring injury. Running back Giovani Bernard (torn ACL) also will not be available for Sunday, while tight end Tyler Eifert is back after missing the first six weeks with an ankle injury.
Dalton is a quality quarterback, and while his numbers are not great, he can still wins games with his arm. He is completing 64.7 percent of his passes for 276 yards per game along with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Bengals on defense
Defense is where the Bengals have problems. The Bengals rank 24th in yards allowed (372.1), and they’re awful against the run, allowing 123.4 yards a contest (28th). They have done well defending the pass, permitting 248.7 yards a game and picking off 10 passes. The Bengals—as a result of holding Buffalo and the New York Giants to a combined 37 points over the last two games—are giving up 22.6 points a game.
Cincinnati has recorded 19 sacks with defensive end Carlos Dunlap leading the way with 5.5 sacks and defensive tackle Geno Atkins contributing 4.5.
Players to watch: Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick
Kirkpatrick is the Bengals’ No. 2 corner, meaning that he will be matched up against the savvy Steve Smith Sr. or speedy Mike Williams—whichever player fellow cornerback Adam Jones is not covering. Smith is coming off his best game in several weeks, catching eight passes for 99 yards along with a touchdown against the Cowboys. It was his third eight-reception game of the season. Williams hasn’t been overly efficient the last three weeks, hauling in 13 passes on 21 targets. Yet, he is the Ravens’ big-play receiver and is second on the club with 48 receptions.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has not been very accurate this season, which has led him to tossing nine interceptions. He did not throw an interception against the Cowboys, though he has thrown five interceptions over the last four games.
The Ravens really need this game to maintain their edge in the AFC North race. The defense should bounce back from the disappointing performance against the Cowboys, and offensively, the Ravens have been successful with their short passing game. They should also be able to get the running game going, like they did in the first half of the game against Dallas. The biggest mistakes the Ravens need to avoid: Asking too much of Flacco and abandoning the running game too quickly.