A week after I sat down with Cincy Jungle’s Anthony Cosenza to talk Ravens vs. Bengals, we’re back at it in a third edition of Behind Enemy Lines.
1. Though the Bengals won over the Ravens last week 27-16, there’s been a bit of confidence from Ravens fans who believe there’s a real shot of winning over the Bengals in the Wild-card round. Had the third-string UDFA rookie quarterback not made some egregiously poor turnovers, that game would’ve been close and without numerous Ravens starters. Is there any sense of that coming from Bengals fans?
I think realistic Bengals fans are cautiously optimistic in this one. The hesitancy lies in the familiarity both teams have in each other and that “Wild Card” of playing each other three times in the same season.
On one hand, it’s widely-believed Cincinnati crawled into a play-calling shell towards the end of the finale, preferring not to show much for the following week. Additionally, there were uncharacteristic missed of a lot of big plays that would have netted 2-3 more passing touchdowns. Those misses aren’t likely to be as plentiful this week.
On the other, none of Burrow’s 12 interceptions on the year have come against AFC North foes (one vs Baltimore), showing that familiarity against him and the team’s offensive preferences breed opportunities (albeit limited) for the opposing defense. And, the missed opportunities on offense last week did come against a swarming Baltimore defense. Throw in the quietly-big injury to right guard Alex Cappa and this isn’t a walk in the park, despite the Ravens likely playing a backup quarterback.
2. Bengals right guard Alex Cappa has been ruled out for Sunday. How big of a loss is this for the offense? Big. One could argue he’s been the team’s best lineman this year after being one of their prized free agent gets. The interior of the offensive line was a bit of a mess last year, hence why there are (or have been) three new starters inside this year.
Burrow is excellent at navigating the pocket and evading pressure, though, and the guy they have coming in (Max Scharping) has been okay in his past extensive NFL starts. Still, this will likely show in the running game and the hope is that Scharping can keep the ship steady this week.
3. There was a lot of talk after Sunday about the physicality regarding the Ravens. Do you see a real rivalry forming between these two teams, especially considering they’re meeting in the playoffs for the first time? From this side of things, there’s always been some form of a rivalry. Marvin Lewis actually had a modicum of success against Baltimore, which many people forget—be it with Carson Palmer or Andy Dalton. Of course, the Ravens often took it to the Bengals before Lewis left Baltimore for Cincinnati, too.
Things actually got extra fiesty in the Zac Taylor era, with a perceived run-up of the score by the Ravens occurring a few years ago, and the same feeling being reciprocated with Burrow’s two big games against them last year. In truth, since the Bengals haven’t been good for a long time and stumbled in big games when they turned things around, they were a constant oversight by most of the league.
But, with Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and the Bengals’ Super Bowl run, their open confidence and re-ascension as an AFC power have people taking notice again and fostering ill will against them. I look forward to seeing how this rivalry further develops in the coming years.
4. Without going too much in depth, how do you see the Bengals offense wanting to attack the Ravens defense? And in a similar light, what will ensure their success defensively against the Ravens? I think they will want to use quick passing in the beginning stages of the game with some RPO runs from shotgun mixed in there. I look for Tee Higgins and Hayden Hurst as early contributors, as the Bengals look to get the ball out quickly to mask the injury issues on the right side of the line and to get Burrow in an early rhythm.
From there I think they try to set up big plays to Chase, while also moving him around (even in the slot) to try and create mismatches from there. If all goes according to plan (meaning the defense can also step up against what is likely going to be a backup quarterback), heavy doses of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine could be seen late.
5. The line for this game on DraftKings Sportsbook has sky-rocketed from Bengals -5.5 to Bengals -9. With Lamar Jackson ruled out for Sunday, do you think this line is correct? If not, where would you draw it? It’s weird. I’m not overly-ecstatic about the Bengals favored by nearly double-digit points, despite facing another backup quarterback, the venue being the same and the missed opportunities last week wherein the team won by two possessions.
Baltimore will be playing J.K. Dobbins, Mark Andrews, Marcus Peters and other huge contributors in this one, so another 11-point, or even 9-point win seems just hard to grasp. Those three should combine to make this a much closer contest.
Maybe the Bengals surprise me (and some others) and put forth a performance resembling the 2021 matchups between these two teams with a convincing result. Right now I see the line more as a 6-7 point favorite for the Bengals. Cincinnati is 12-4 against the spread this year though, so that’s something to note, I suppose.