The 2-2 Baltimore Ravens host the 2-2 Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football in an early-season matchup of divisional ramifications. The Ravens have lost their last five home games, including two second-half collapses this season. The Bengals, on the other hand, have begun to find a rhythm on the back of two straight victories. Cincinnati got the better of Baltimore in their two meetings last season, outscoring them 82-18.
With a new season comes new results, however. With that in mind, what are some of the key matchups for Sunday between these bitter rivals?
Ravens’ cornerbacks vs. Bengals’ wide receivers
Perhaps no matchup holds more weight to the outcome of Sunday’s contest than the Ravens’ cornerbacks vs. the Bengals’ deadly trio of wide receivers. Ja’Marr Chase, in particular, had his way against Baltimore in 2021 when he totaled 326 receiving yards across two games. That was without cornerback Marcus Peters for both games and Marlon Humphrey for the second contest, but Chase’s best game came with Humphrey still on the field earlier in the season. It currently looks as though Baltimore could be without Peters this week as well after he was limited in practice on Thursday and absent on Friday.
Humphrey has enjoyed a strong start to the season, but if Peters is unable to play, the Ravens' bottom-ranked passing defense will be even more vulnerable. Without Peters, second-year cornerback Brandon Stephens and a combination of rookies Jayln Armour-Davis and Damarion “Pepe” Williams will be tasked with covering the other two receivers among Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Free safety Marcus Williams will be vital in eliminating big plays over top and providing help for Baltimore’s inexperienced cornerbacks.
Cincinnati’s offense has yet to fully resemble the electrifying passing attack that helped carry them to the Super Bowl last season, but that could quickly change against a defense ranked No. 32 against the pass this week.
Mark Andrews vs. Bengals’ safeties and linebackers
All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews had an uncharacteristically quiet performance against the Buffalo Bills in Week 4 as he was held to just two catches for 15 yards. Andrews has been the clear top target and safety valve for quarterback Lamar Jackson throughout their careers since being drafted in 2018. With top wide receiver Rashod Bateman ruled out for Sunday with a foot injury, Andrews will have to bounce back this week to carry the passing attack.
Andrews will likely see several different looks from the Bengals on Sunday in an attempt to take away the Ravens’ top receiving threat. Linebackers Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt are sure to match up with Andrews on some plays, while safeties Jessie Bates III or Von Bell could on others. Without Bateman on the field, Cincinnati can devote even more players to stopping Andrews until another receiver makes them pay.
Trey Hendrickson vs. Ravens’ offensive tackles
The game of musical chairs at left tackle could continue this week for Baltimore. Rookie fourth-rounder Daniel Faalele has filled in admirably for the injured Patrick Mekari, but Mekari returned to practice this week. Ronnie Stanley could also make his season debut on Sunday. No matter which player ends up protecting Jackson’s blindside this week, they will have the tough task of blocking defensive end Trey Hendrickson. Stanley, a former All-Pro, is the best equipped to deal with the star pass rusher, but considering he has not played in a game since Week 1 of the 2021 season, it may take some time to find his footing again.
Hendrickson made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Bengals in 2021 after notching a career-high 14 sacks, including two against the Ravens. Baltimore will likely devote help on passing downs to whoever lines up against Hendrickson, which will take away even more resources from an already thin crop of receiving options.