Keep it here all day for the Gametime 'Open Thread,' posting your thoughts and comments as the game progresses. I won't be able to join you until afterwards, as I will be cheering myself hoarse up in Section 206 at M&T Bank Stadium after some tailgating to get that "liquid encouragement" to be loud, proud and purple!
Who Dey Bengals? I just wanted to see how silly it looked to write and sounded to say. Not too sure where it came from as it sounds like it should be more from New Orleans than Cincinnati. No matter how you say it, we know who dey are, they're the team that we beat twice last year and plan on doing the same this year as well. However, this is not quite the same Bengals team as last year. They had a great draft in April but their #1 pick is still on the sidelines with a broken foot. Their second round pick, Rey Maualaga, has proved to have been an excellent pick in his short career at inside linebacker. The Bengals defense is playing well and is not the pushover it once was. Offensively, Carson Palmer is much healthier than he was last year but surprisingly has eschewed (like that word?) the deep pass for the most part this season. Cedric Benson is among the league leaders in rushing and while they lost TJ Whosyourmomma and signed Laverneous Coles in his place, there's still some guy there named Ochocinco.
But is that enough to go into enemy territory here in Baltimore and prove that their 3-1 record, including road wins in Green Bay and Cleveland and escape with a win and the lead in the AFC North?
(More on Bengals @ Ravens: Prediction & "Open Thread" after the 'Jump')
The simple answer is "no." For a more in depth answer, try "no
blanking way!" Sigh, but here on The Beatdown, we tell others to bring it but back it up with knowledge, so we must do the same, The Bengals are widely thought to be one bad play away from being undefeated, but here we say they are just a couple of close finishes away from being 0-4 as well. Those close games look to be the trend that make me feel that their string of winning at the end will indeed end today. They've enjoyed great success running the ball so far this season, but that won't continue in Baltimore, which means they will have to go through the air. Carson Palmer is healthier than last year as I said earlier, but he is still not the guy he was a few years ago when he was mentioned along with the top of the league's elite QB's. His arm is not what it once was and he sticks with the shorter passes rather than the deep bombs that the Ravens' secondary has been susceptible to this year. Expecting to manufacture points off of long drives without a running game is a recipe for disaster, as the Ravens have been very opportunistic on defense at home.
The Ravens should still be able to run the ball on Cincinnati, depending on how often they choose to rush rather than pass. Joe Flacco is statistically among the league leaders in attempts, yards and even TD passes, and RB Willis McGahee leads the NFL in touchdowns. The Ravens offense is not only too strong for the Bengals, it is as well balanced as any in the NFL this season. That is a scary statement, but seemingly necessary since the defense has not mirrored the ones of years' past. However, that might just be a bump in the road for 2009, as the two offenses that have put yards and points on us (San Diego, New England) are two of the best in the league.
One thing the Ravens have done over the past two years is beat the teams they are supposed to beat, and beat them bad. The disappointing losses the Ravens have suffered since the beginning of 2008 are the ones with the tougher top ranked teams in games that we were either slight favorites or underdogs. This week the Ravens are 8.5 point favorites and to me there's no reason why we shouldn't cover just like we did in our three wins. As close as the Bengals are to either 4-0 or 0-4, the Ravens are looked at being one dropped pass (ouch!) away from being 4-0. None of what happened in the past means anything today, as Baltimore ends the weekend at 4-1 and alone at the top of the AFC North with a resounding victory in one of the toughest places for visitors to come into and win.