The Baltimore Ravens will begin their postseason quest at Paul Brown stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon. The Bengals have won six of the seven most recent meetings between these divisional foes. With a career 73-percent quarterback rating and 16:21 touchdown to interception ratio, Joe Flacco has struggled against Marvin Lewis’ cover-2 heavy scheme.
Barring the most favorable game situations, the Bengals will not be able to run the ball effectively against the Ravens. The Ravens defensive interior is too strong to be pushed around by their underwhelming blockers. The Ravens are fortunate to catch Cincinnati without two of their better defenders, Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones, while the offense plays together after an injury plagued preseason. If the Ravens can limit big passing plays, they have a prime opportunity to earn a valuable AFC North road win.
C Ryan Jensen vs DT Geno Atkins
The Bengals will attempt to match Atkins up on left guard James Hurst in passing situations. Jensen will be counted on to help double team the interior penetrator. Atkins is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first team All-Pro. In a dozen career games against the Ravens, he has posted 6.5 sacks and 30 total tackles. Fellow All-Pro Marshal Yanda should fight Atkins to a stalemate when lined up across from him, but the physical Jensen’s success overpowering the slightly undersized defensive tackle will be important for the Ravens unproven running game.
WR Jeremy Maclin vs CB Dre Kirkpatrick
Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard are listed as the starting corners during Adam Jones one-game suspension. Kirkpatrick is the Bengals most experienced corner and inked a five-year, $53 million contract in March. Maclin is the Ravens best route runner and went off on the Bengals in 2015 with 11-catches for 148 yards while playing for the Chiefs. A few third down conversions from Maclin would be clutch for the Ravens.
OLB Matt Judon vs RT Jake Fisher
Terrell Suggs should have his way with left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. But if the Ravens really want to rattle Andy Dalton, Judon will have to collapse the pocket from the opposite side. Last year against Cincinnati, former Ravens strong side outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil had a strip-sack in Week 12 and collected another sack in Week 17. If Judon can make a similar impact, the Ravens should post a statement win.
CB Jimmy Smith vs WR A.J. Green
Green’s success against the Ravens is well documented. The elite receiver missed both games last year with a hamstring injury, but was held in check by Smith and company in the final regular season game of 2015. In that contest, Green was held to four catches for 34 yards and one score. Smith has the size and physicality to disrupt Green, but he must be careful to prevent A.J. from getting behind him and make plays on passes in the air. Without a large contribution from Green, the Bengals will be hard pressed to move the ball.
S Tony Jefferson vs TE Tyler Eifert
The oft injured tight end has missed almost half of his career opportunities against Baltimore. Eifert has caught a touchdown in each of his last two games against the Ravens; and was targeted 11 times last year, producing five receptions for 68 yards. Ravens Filmstudy by Ken McKusick shows Jefferson covered tight ends remarkably well last season, especially Jimmy Graham of Seattle. If the secondary can slow down both Green and Eifert, the Ravens have a real chance to keep Cincinnati’s offensive output in the single digits.
*All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference