The Baltimore Ravens have a drastic change in competition this Sunday in Cincinnati as they take on the Bengals in Tiger Country. The Bengals have always put a dagger in the Ravens while Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh manned the helm. Lamar Jackson has taken a different approach as he is currently 2-0 against the them in his short career.
A loss in Cincy would be completely unacceptable for a team that just beat the New England Patriots. Baltimore excelled on offense and defense Sunday night to ruin the Patriots undefeated season. There is a buzz surrounding this team after winning four straight games since their embarrassing 15-point loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 4.
Baltimore has a much easier road to a five-game winning streak playing the Bengals, who are an absolute train wreck through their first eight games of the season. Take the Bengals record out of the picture and this is still an AFC North showdown that the Ravens have struggled in. Andy Dalton was benched during the Bengals bye week and Ryan Finley will now get the nod. This is news that the Ravens defense must love to hear. Let’s look at some keys to a Baltimore victory Sunday at one o’clock.
Keep your foot on the gas:
Baltimore has the opportunity to extend their winning streak to five games in a row against a team that is destined to have a top pick (or THE top pick) in the 2020 NFL draft. Week 10 provides the opportunity for the Ravens to continually refine each side of the football and keep trucking forward. Baltimore should be able to cake walk to victory, but we’ve seen crazier things happen in today’s NFL. The Ravens should reduce the rushing attempts by Lamar Jackson and keep him safe in a game where his talents aren’t going to be heavily relied upon. Greg Roman and John Harbaugh should give Lamar the opportunity to throw the football more and gain some chunk yardage through the air. We all know that Lamar can throw accurately.
This is an excellent game for the Ravens to work on things and develop future plans for this offense. I don’t see them adding wrinkles to this offense against a team that has trouble stopping frankly anything. The Defense should be able to dominate and walk away unscathed. Baltimore is putting up great defensive numbers against some pretty stellar offenses (Tom Brady) and expect them to give pass rushers opportunities to hunt on a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut. Keep moving forward Baltimore.
Fundamentals, communications and the little things:
Since the Week 4 loss against the Browns, the Ravens defense had honed in on their fundamentals and communication because of coverage and tackling breakdowns. This game will give the Ravens another opportunity to work on things that they could be lacking on. An AFC North game will always be competitive to a certain level but in all honesty this game should be a blow out. Baltimore needs to focus on the little things and refining communication. Tackling will also be a factor in this game. The Ravens can’t get lazy against any team when it comes to tackling because they will consistently get gashed.
The Bengals will look to run with Joe Mixon to set up a play action for Ryan Finley. If the Ravens play their game, they should have no problem teeing off on Mixon and Finley. Baltimore needs to suffocate the Bengals and not allow them to get into a rhythm. If they are able to do what they did against the Patriots, look for a blowout in the making.
Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers:
Baltimore must turn the ball over against this rookie quarterback. This is a stat sheet type of game for the Ravens defense. I would expect the Ravens to create three or more turnovers in this game. The Ravens must create turnovers and make Finley nervous to make a mistake. If Finley is afraid to throw into tight coverage, he will make mistakes. Look for Earl Thomas III to eat during this game. This matchup screams Thomas feasting on a quarterback that is inexperienced.
With all this defense talk, the offense must not turn the ball over trying to force something that isn’t there or isn’t working to their advantage. This is not a game that where Baltimore can give the football away in the red zone and put their defense in a spot where they have no opportunity to succeed. Time of possession will most certainly be won but the offense can’t give the Bengals any opportunities of short yardage.
Expose the Bengals deficiencies:
The Bengals have a terrible secondary, especially without the injured Dre Kirkpatrick. Lamar has the opportunity to gain some stats through the air and feed his wide receivers when given the opportunity. Every team has a weakness but Cincinnati has several that Baltimore can expose easily with such a potent offense. It seems as if the Bengals have no idea how to handle Lamar Jackson. The first matchup the Bengals showed a lot of zone coverage and the second game showed strictly man coverage. Both of these tactics are shown to be ineffective against a dual threat like Jackson.
The Ravens must show the Bengals why they are 0-8 and attack when necessary. Don’t get over zealous or cute, do what you do best and win the football game.
Keep the ball in front of you:
Ryan Finley may have a big arm, but he’s a rookie making his debut. He’ll try to dink-and-dunk down the field. That’s fine, just don’t let the ball get behind you. With A.J. Green’s not playing, the Bengals will already have a difficult time getting the ball deep down the field against this secondary. Baltimore is absolutely stacked in the secondary and any team will have a hard time making plays, but don’t allow someone you have no tape on do things that he shouldn’t. Baltimore has gotten extremely better in a lot of areas since week four and one of them is not allowing big unwarranted plays.
Through the first four weeks of the season, the Ravens were giving up chunk play after chunk play to players that we’ve never heard of. This has since been fixed and they are truly keeping the ball in front of them which has led to success. Don’t be surprised if the Ravens absolutely dominate this game on both sides of the football, especially on defense.