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Game Preview: Ravens vs. Bengals


There can't be a bigger regular-season game than this.

The Ravens have scratched and clawed all year. They've had ups (a recent four-game winning streak) and downs (last Sunday's 41-7 loss to the Patiots). Heading into Week 17, they still have a chance at getting into the playoffs.

It'll take (most likely) a win in Cincinnati to do it, and the Ravens plan on giving it all they have.

"We take pride in being battle tested. Last week was last week," running back Ray Rice said.

"If I know the group that's going to show up on Sunday, the group that's going to show up on Sunday is going to fight until the last whistle until it's all over. Hopefully, it's good enough to take care of business."

Matchups To Watch

CB Jimmy Smith vs. WR A.J. Green
Smith was drafted to cover Green. Both were taken in the first round in 2011. Green became an instant Pro Bowler while Smith took a little while longer to develop. But now Smith is on a comparable level to Green, and could further prove himself by locking the dynamic playmaker down. Smith didn't allow a single reception in man-to-man coverage to the Lions' Calvin Johnson. Green is in a similar mold with his size, but is somewhat more explosive with less strength.

OLB Terrell Suggs vs. LT Anthony Collins
Suggs struggled to get sacks against Bengals offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth. But Whitworth has been moved to left guard as Cincinnati is relying on former fourth-round pick Collins to hold up Andy Dalton's blind side. Suggs broke his streak of six straight games without a sack last week against New England. He also had one of his strongest games of the year. The Ravens need another big game.

OLB Elvis Dumervil vs. RT Andre Smith
The amount of pressure the Ravens can get on Dalton is critical in this game. Dumervil had three sacks against Smith and Cincinnati in Week 10. Since then, he's notched just one sack in his last five games. Dumervil has been hampered by a bum ankle, but he's been playing through it. If he put it together for one more performance, this would be the week.

Keys To The Game

Get To Dalton
Any quarterback becomes less effective when he's pressured and hit. Dalton may be moreso. The Ravens picked him off three times in Baltimore earlier this year in large part thanks to five sacks. Dalton has thrown just four touchdowns to seven interceptions during his career against the Ravens.

Limit The Big Play
The Bengals are so good at home because they hit the big play. They've scored 40 points or more at home in each of their last three games. That's in part because of defensive touchdowns as well. Green can go deep at any time, as evidenced by his Hail Mary reception in Baltimore. Bengals Giovanni Bernard is also a threat to take it to the end zone on every touch. The Ravens defense must stay disciplined.

Break Down The Cover-2
Cincinnati likes to play zone coverage, and they've often done it well against Joe Flacco and Co. The Patriots had success with zones that took away much of the mid- to deep part of the field last week. The Bengals could brush off their Cover-2 after seeing that success on tape. Flacco needs to do a good job recognizing the coverage and seeing dropping linebackers. Short to intermediate crossing routes may open things up.

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