Everything You Need to Know: Ravens vs. Bengals



Kickoff: 1 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium
TV: Channel 13, WJZ (Baltimore) CBS Crew (Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Steve Tasker)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM) and 98Rock (97.9 FM)
Jersey color: Black


The Ravens (4-5) badly need a win, riding a three-game losing streak and coming off a bye. A victory would leave the Ravens squarely in the AFC wild-card picture, tied with Cincinnati (5-4) for second place in the AFC North. But a loss would drop the Ravens to 4-6 with just six games remaining. It would also give Cincinnati a season sweep over the Ravens. At that point, a six-game winning streak might be the only way for Baltimore to reach the playoffs.


The Bengals lead the all-time series, 23-22, and have won the last two meetings and eight of the last 10. In Week 2, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes to A.J. Green in the first half, igniting Cincinnati to a 34-23 win. Last season, the Bengals crushed Baltimore's playoff hopes with a 31-27 victory in the regular-season finale. Dalton found wide receiver Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown pass in the game's final minute.

Key Storylines

Who will be the Ravens' starting quarterback?

Head Coach John Harbaugh played coy all week, declining to reveal his starter until Sunday. Joe Flacco was listed as doubtful (hip), but Harbaugh said Flacco could still play. Lamar Jackson missed practice Thursday with an illness but he returned to practice Friday and declared himself "good" for Sunday. Robert Griffin III was the only quarterback who didn't miss practice this week, and he could start as well. There will be high interest if Jackson makes his first NFL start, especially with so much on the line. How much will the offense change with Jackson at the helm, and how effective will he be as a passer? Those much-anticipated questions could be answered Sunday.

How different will the Ravens look after the bye?

No matter who starts at quarterback, the Ravens need to play better than they did in October. Harbaugh has an 8-2 career record after the bye, and there will be some new wrinkles. Jackson was expected to play more over the final seven games, even before Flacco suffered his hip injury against Pittsburgh. Whatever Jackson's role, the Ravens need to become more explosive offensively and more opportunistic defensively. Baltimore's defense has produced just seven takeaways in nine games.

Can the Ravens exploit Cincinnati's struggling defense?

The Bengals' defense ranks last in the NFL, surrendering more than 500 yards in each of their last three games. Head Coach Marvin Lewis took over the reigns after firing Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin on Monday. Former Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson has been added to Cincinnati's staff as an assistant coach. Lewis and Jackson have work to do, but the Bengals' defense has been historically good against Baltimore.

Key Matchups

Ravens offensive line vs. Bengals DL Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap

Baltimore's offensive line has dealt with injuries all season, and Atkins and Dunlap have combined for 13 sacks. The Bengals won the battle in the trenches in Week 2, disrupting Baltimore's offense. Ravens guard Marshal Yanda respects Atkins as much as any opponent.

"He has all three traits as a pass rusher," Yanda said. "Usually a defensive tackle is either super good with the bull (rush) and he's not-so-good with edges and side-to-side lateral quickness. Geno has a good blend of all of that. He can run you over. He can take the inside move. He has the lateral quickness and the super, bull-rush strength."

Ravens defense vs. Bengals RB Joe Mixon

In their last game before the bye, the Ravens gave up 107 yards rushing to Steelers running back James Conner. Mixon had 82 yards against Baltimore in Week 2. The Ravens need to play better run defense against Mixon and make the Bengals one-dimensional.

Ravens pass rushers vs. Bengals QB Andy Dalton

Dalton was not sacked in Week 2 against the Ravens, nor was he barely touched. Pass rushers like Za'Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon have had a week off to get rejuvenated. If they can throw Dalton off his rhythm, it may lead to turnover opportunities for the Ravens' defense.

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