Turning Point For Ravens In AFC North Showdown
When we look back, we will remember this week.
This Sunday's division showdown could be the "turning point" that sets the season's course not only for the Ravens, but for the Bengals and the entire AFC North, says ESPN's Coley Harvey and Jamison Hensley.
But guys, it's just one of 16 games. Can it really be that dramatic?
"If the Ravens win, it will be the kind of feather-in-their-cap victory that can allow them to not only put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the division, but prove they can win on the road in an always difficult place to play," the Bengals and Ravens reporters wrote. "If the Bengals win and start rattling off a string of subsequent victories, this game could be viewed as the linchpin moment to their season. It would be the week their string of disappointment ended, and the victories returned.
"So this isn't any ordinary midseason showdown. This is a high-stakes Week 8 game that could have many playoff implications riding on it."
For the Ravens, they could make a statement to the NFL, saying they can do more than beat up on NFC South teams (nobody above .500) by knocking off the reigning division champs at Paul Brown Stadium. The Ravens are only 2-4 in Cincy since quarterback Joe Flacco and Head Coach John Harbaugh came to town in 2008.
For the Bengals, is it too much to call it a "must-win game" after three straight winless contests?
"Not at all," wrote Harvey. "I'd argue this is a must-win game."
"A loss, and the Bengals' season could enter into a potentially irrevocable tailspin. A win, and suddenly they are right back atop the AFC North and in the conversation about the top teams in the league once again."
So let's see who analysts believe will get the victory in this all-important division battle …
Week 8: Ravens vs. Bengals Picks
Last week, the picks were unanimous. Everyone correctly predicted the Ravens to beat the Falcons.
This week, not so much.
More analysts are split, but the majority lean toward the Ravens going into Cincinnati and stealing a road win to hold onto the AFC North's* *top spot.
Baltimore Sun: 5 of 7 pick Ravens over Bengals
Last week: 7 of 7 picked Ravens over Falcons
Jeff Zrebiec (Bengals 23, Ravens 20): "The Ravens just haven't played well in Cincinnati, and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis' defense gives Joe Flacco more problems than any other team's. The Bengals are also the more desperate team."
Last week: Ravens 30, Falcons 20
Mike Preston (Ravens 28, Bengals 27):"The Bengals are 0-2-1 in their past three games and have been hit hard by injuries. The Ravens understand the importance of the next two weeks, and they will seize control of the AFC North by beating both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in back-to-back weeks on the road."
Last week: Ravens 28, Falcons 24
ESPN.com: 10 of 13 pick Ravens over Bengals
Last week: 13 of 13 picked Ravens over Falcons
NFL.com(Elliot Harrison): Bengals 24, Ravens 23
"The Ravens have been red hot, winning five of their last six, while the Bengals haven't won a game in October -- but we're taking the home team. During the Marvin Lewis era, Cincy is 8-3 when hosting Baltimore. This is not to disparage John Harbaugh, as history has shown him to be a far more successful head coach. This pick is more about the host Bengals needing to save their season. A loss puts Cincinnati two games behind Baltimore in the AFC North with no more head-to-head matchups left. It would also mire the Bengals in a four-game non-winning streak. Cincinnati's defense has allowed a whopping 480.7 yards per game over its past three. The tide has to turn – right? And Ravens running back Justin Forsett can't keep running like Tony Dorsett – right?"
Last week: Ravens 30, Falcons 17
CBSSports.com: 5 of 8 pick Ravens over Bengals
Last week: 8 of 8 picked Ravens over Falcons
Pete Prisco: Bengals 21, Ravens 17
"This is for first place in the division, but these two teams are going in opposite directions as they prepare to meet. The Bengals have lost two and tied one in the past three. Baltimore has won its last two. Cincinnati won at Baltimore in the opener and I think they will re-group here with A.J. Green expected back."
*Last week: Ravens 30, Falcons 27
ProFootballTalk.com: 2 of 2 pick Ravens over Bengals
Last week: 2 of 2 picked Ravens over Falcons
Mike Florio: Ravens 24, Bengals 17"The Bengals won in Baltimore to start the season. But the Bengals are struggling without a deep threat to stretch the field (assuming A.J. Green remains out), and the Ravens have found their groove."
Last week: Ravens 31, Falcons 20
Michael David Smith: Ravens 21, Bengals 20
"Cincinnati dominated when these two teams met in Week 1, but Baltimore has looked like the much better team recently. The Ravens are playing so well in all three phases of the game that I just can't pick against them right now."
Last week: Ravens 31, Falcons 21
SportingNews.com(Vinnie Iyer): Ravens 20, Bengals 17
"The Bengals stole this game in Week 1, but the Ravens have been the much better team of late and are primed to turn the table. It took a magical play from A.J. Green in the first meeting, and he is unlikely to be in the mix with his toe injury. Steve Smith Sr. is playing here, and he's helped restore the toughness that allowed John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco to be a consistent playoff team. Cincy needs to find offensive answers after being blanked by Indy, but Baltimore's nasty all-around D won't let the host find it."
Last week: Ravens 38, Falcons 21
FoxSports.com(Peter Schrager): Ravens 28, Bengals 19
"Cincinnati outscored opponents 80-33 in its 3-0 start, but has been outscored 107-54 and hasn't won a game since. The last time the Ravens traveled to Cincinnati, it was Week 17 last year, and they were eliminated from postseason contention with a heartbreaking loss. This isn't the same Ravens team that lost to Cincinnati in Week 1, either. The Ravens' pass rush didn't record a single sack in that game. Since that one, they've come alive. The Ravens had five sacks and 15 quarterback hits in Tampa Bay two weeks ago and five sacks and nine quarterback hits against Atlanta in Week 7."
Last week: Ravens 34, Falcons 23
Pierce Not Frustrated With Workload
With Justin Forsett unexpectedly exploding and becoming one of the league's top-5 rushers, Bernard Pierce has had an inconsistent workload.
Pierce was the expected starter early in the season, but he went down with a quadriceps injury and Forsett took advantage.
Even though Pierce's carries and production (196 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 55 carries) are down now that he is healthy, he was gracious toward his teammate and the success Forsett is having.
"It's not frustrating," Pierce told Zrebiec. "I went down, missed two weeks, and the two weeks that I was absent, [Forsett] had two great performances. He keeps coming in and performing, week in and week out.
"You can't take it from him. When my number is called, I just go out there and go."
Kubiak: TE Daniels Is 'Fine'
Tight end Owen Daniels missed his second practice this week with a knee injury, but Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak indicated the injury is no big deal.
"Owen's fine," Kubiak told media yesterday. "John's got a plan for these veteran guys. I know he's got a plan for O.D. and how to keep him fresh and keep him ready to go. But as far as what we're doing, game plan, those types of thing, O.D. will be fine."
In the meantime, rookie Crockett Gillmore's role has been increasing, says The Sun's Aaron Wilson. As a first-year player, Gillmore continues to get a better idea of what's expected of him, and on Sunday he had a career-high 43 snaps against the Falcons.
Gillmore is preparing himself just in case Daniels can't go.
"I'm prepared every week to be the starter from the first day I got here," Gillmore said. "That's just the mentality I've had. I've always been a guy who's been ready. He'll be ready. He does a good job of keeping his body ready."
A.J. Green Still Not Practicing
Bengals Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green missed his second day of practice this week with an injured toe. His status for Sunday's game is up in the air.
"Just like the day before, Green was relegated to the rehab field off to the side of the Bengals' workout space adjacent to Paul Brown Stadium," wrote Harvey. "During the open portion of the practice he was seen going back through some of the conditioning and agility drills he went through on Wednesday. He also was spotted wearing his black Bengals practice jersey, and he walked out to the rehab space carrying his helmet. It was the first time he at least had been in practice attire."
Newsome, Cass To Testify At Rice Hearing
Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome and President Dick Cass will testify at the appeal hearing for Ray Rice, according to Wilson. They will join NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell during the hearing scheduled for Nov. 5 and 6.
Former federal judge Barbara S. Jones did not rule that Owner Steve Bisciotti or Directory of Security Darren Sanders must testify.
Rice is appealing his indefinite suspension by the league, arguing that the NFL already punished him for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy with his two-game suspension. Rice also filed a separate grievance against the Ravens for wrongful termination.
- Ravens defensive end Chris Canty joins nearly two dozen NFL representatives in saying NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault.
- Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil could make a second run at the NFL's sack title. [CSNBaltimore.com]
- Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg on why the Ravens will keep Jacoby Jones at returner: "The reason we have him back there is we really feel confident he's going to make a play for us if we block it well.* *And our players feel the same way. So, based on that, we look forward to blocking for him again." [ESPN]
- "Even though [safety Matt] Elam started [last week], he was on the field for a career-low 22 snaps. [Terrence] Brooks, a rookie third-round pick, played 44. The Ravens are obviously trying to keep Elam off the field in passing situations," wrote Hensley. [ESPN]