WHO: Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-8)
WHERE: Paul Brown Stadium
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, 1 p.m. EST
The Ravens go from facing the undefeated New England Patriots to facing the winless Bengals, but Ravens coaches and players have spent all week stressing that they won’t allow themselves an emotional letdown after their 37-20 win against New England.
“What would last week’s win mean if we just go out there and just lay an egg?” cornerback Jimmy Smith asked.
“This game’s a rivalry game,” Smith added, “just like the Steelers, Browns. The records don’t matter.”
The Ravens won the first meeting this season between the teams, 23-17, at M&T Bank Stadium four weeks ago. But Paul Brown Stadium has not been kind to the Ravens; they have lost six of their past seven games there.
As the Ravens look for their fifth straight win, here are three key matchups to watch:
Ravens T Orlando Brown or T Ronnie Stanley vs. Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap
After the Ravens 23-17 win against Cincinnati in Week 6, Ravens coaches said the Bengals’ defensive game plan was to take away the middle of the field. Then Lamar Jackson burned them off the edges to the tune of a career-high 152 rushing yards. He also threw for 236 yards.
The Bengals, though, were missing Dunlap, a 10-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowl pick who can set the edge against the run, harass the quarterback (he has at least 7.5 sacks in each of the past six years) and bat down passes (He had 30 from 2016-2018, the most in that span by a non-defensive back.)
Brown and Stanley have been bookends for an offensive line that has been at the heart of the Ravens’ run-game success. The Ravens wouldn’t be averaging a league-best 204 rushing yards a game, or piling up eight- and nine-minute drives, without strong line play. Stanley has been limited in practice this week by a knee injury but is expected to play.
Ravens LB Patrick Onwuasor vs. Bengals RB Joe Mixon or RB Gio Bernard
Onwuasor has moved from the middle linebacker spot to his more natural weak-side role, and coach John Harbaugh said he might have played his best game of the season in the win over the Patriots. He forced the fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Marlon Humphrey, and he finished with a season-high eight tackles.
With All-Pro A.J. Green likely sidelined, and with rookie quarterback Ryan Finley making his first career start, expect the Bengals’ passing game to include a lot of high-percentage, shorter throws to the running backs, and Onwuasor could find himself in coverage. Mixon has 19 catches for 110 yards this year, while Bernard has 18 catches for 126.
Those two backs were totally shut down on the ground in the Week 6 meeting, totaling 14 yards on 12 carries. The Bengals’ running game this year ranks last in the league with 59.5 yards a game.
Ravens OLB Matthew Judon vs. Bengals T John Jerry or T Cordy Glenn
Judon had one of the Ravens two sacks of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the Week 6 meeting between these teams — but that is his only sack in the past five weeks. He was a factor against New England, though with four of the Ravens’ 10 hits on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Similar pressure from Judon against rookie quarterback Ryan Finley could create havoc and even force throws that become interceptions.
Jerry has started the past three games at left tackle for a Bengals line that has been in flux all season, especially on the left side. They have allowed 29 sacks, seventh-most in the league. Glenn, an eight-year veteran, is listed as the Bengals’ starting left tackle, but he has yet to play this season. He suffered a concussion in preseason, then after being cleared to play, served a one-game suspension levied by the team.
Expect the Bengals to make adjustments after Lamar Jackson blistered them for a career-high 152 rushing yards in Week 6. But if they try to take away Jackson’s running to the outside, there might be room up the middle for power backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards. This offense has multiple points of attack.
It was already a tall order for Bengals rookie quarterback Ryan Finley making his first NFL start, and that is compounded by the likely absence of All-Pro receiver A.J. Green, whose season debut was expected to be this week before he suffered a setback with his ankle injury. John Harbaugh-coached teams have traditionally made things tough on a rookie quarterback, and the Ravens improving defense will do the same.
Nothing seems to come easy for the Ravens in Cincinnati, and a letdown after the big Sunday night win is understandable, but all signs point to a fifth straight Ravens win. Ravens 23, Bengals 12.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox