Bengals Hungry To Halt Surging Ravens


Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis didn't mince any words about how he's feeling right now.

"We just got our head beat," Lewis said.

The Bengals are hungry, real hungry, to turn things around.

After opening the season with three straight wins and heading into the bye with buzz about how they may be the best team in the NFL, the Bengals have two losses and one tie in their last three games.

The Ravens, however, are on the opposite trajectory. They're coming off back-to-back blowout wins and have won five of their last six games. In the process, they passed the Bengals in the AFC North standings.

It's clearly a big game for both teams. Whoever wins will be in first place in the division.

But for the reeling Bengals, it may be a little more dire.

"I think it's a really important football game for us," Lewis said. "We got shut out and we didn't play very well, and we lost to an AFC team. We lost to New England already, and this is a division football game, so it's a really important game for us.

"It's a big game for us, and one that we've got to play our best football to date. We've got to play great in all three phases."

The Bengals had eight straight three-and-outs to begin their last game in Indianapolis. The two weeks prior, their defense let him down, allowing a total of 80 points. Meanwhile, the Ravens have outscored their past two opponents, 77-24.

"Yeah, they're playing with a lot of confidence," Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said. "We know what we're going to get with Baltimore regardless of when you're playing them, how you're playing them."

The two division foes have had plenty of big games against each other over the years.

Last year, the Ravens' playoff chances boiled down to their Week 17 game in Cincinnati. The Ravens had finished with the Bengals on the schedule each of the past four years. So this is the first time since 2009 that the opponents' second game won't end the year.

"It's still the eighth game of the season," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

"It's not the last game of the season, so it doesn't have that kind of a drama to it, but it's important. You're in your division, you're playing a team on the road – a team that's beaten us once at home already – and it takes on the same urgency."

The Ravens know they're at a critical part of the season with road games against the Bengals and Steelers up next on the schedule.

"I think throughout the season – I think maybe last year as well – there were some critical games in the middle that we didn't win, or did, that really helped and hurt," wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. said. "So, I think we have that same situation now, except the writing is on the wall. It's in big, bold print."

The Ravens had a Week 7 game in Pittsburgh, followed by a Week 8 game in Cleveland last season. They were 3-3 at the time. Baltimore dropped both games, falling to 3-5 and putting them behind the eight ball.

While Baltimore isn't in the same dire straight now, they could fall into last place if they drop both of their next games. On the other hand, they could take a strangle hold on the division if they win both. And it starts Sunday in Cincinnati. "These are huge games for us," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "If we want to be at the top of the division, we definitely have to win these games. It's rivalry week for us for two weeks."

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