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Late for Work 10/9: Pundits Are Unanimous in Ravens vs. Bengals Picks

RB Mark Ingram II

Pundits Are Unanimous in Ravens vs. Bengals Picks

The Cincinnati Bengals lost their first 11 games last season and finished 2-14, equaling their worst record in franchise history.

But that was last year. With No. 1-overall pick Joe Burrow under center and a revamped defense, the Bengals are off to a 1-2-1 start and have been in every game. Their losses were by three points and five points.

While the future appears bright for the Bengals, there's still a wide gap between them and the Ravens, according to the oddsmakers. The Ravens (3-1) are favored by 13 points over Cincinnati in Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium.

Points spreads aside, all 47 pundits we looked at forecasted a Baltimore victory. It's worth noting that all of them made their predictions on the assumption that Lamar Jackson will play.

The quarterback did not practice Wednesday or yesterday, although he is expected to play, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, who reported that Jackson missed practice Wednesday due to a knee injury and yesterday because of a stomachache.

Here's a sample of what the pundits are saying about the game:

The Ravens are the better team, but the Bengals won't be pushovers.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "I see it maybe as the Bengals are a lot better than people think and the Ravens aren't as good as people think, where it could get close. I also see it as a divisional football — the Bengals have long given the Ravens problems, and beyond that, they had their number for a good stretch there. So I fully expect it to be a close game."

The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker: "The Bengals have become a more dangerous opponent with Burrow at quarterback and a talented group of skill players around him. But they've yet to play a team on the Ravens' level, and their weaknesses in pass blocking and run defense will make it hard for them to spring an upset. Expect a few nervous moments in the second half before the home team pulls away."

The Ravens' history against rookie quarterbacks points to a long day for Burrow.

Ravens Wire’s Neil Dutton: "[The Ravens] have a history of making rookie passers look as inexperienced as they actually are. … Coordinator Don Martindale will surely look to make Burrow's day [miserable] by sending wave after wave of blitzes after him. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers have blitzed at a higher rate than the Ravens this year."

Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz: "The Ravens are difficult to beat at home, and their long line of bruising, aggressive defenses have not been kind to rookie quarterbacks. … If Burrow needs optimism, he can peer a bit deeper into the past to look at fellow top overall picks. In 2018, the Browns' Baker Mayfield threw for 376 yards in his first trip to Baltimore as an NFL player, and Kyler Murray amassed 349 passing yards for the Cardinals at M&T Bank Stadium as a rookie last year. The problem? Mayfield and Murray still suffered losses."

Big games could be in store for Matthew Judon and Tyus Bowser.

Baltimore Beatdown’s Jakob Ashlin: "The Bengals' offensive line has struggled to protect rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow has already been sacked 15 times this season. … The Ravens will need to put pressure on the Bengals offensive line, and that starts with Judon and Bowser. Both of them could have big games on Sunday."

Burrow is not a typical rookie and presents a challenge for the Ravens defense.

The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon: "Burrow is the first rookie in NFL history to throw for 300 yards in three consecutive games, and he is attacking the intermediate level of the field as well as any quarterback in the league. The Ravens secondary is one of the league's best, but it will be tested Sunday, especially if the pass rush can't get going."

Containing Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd could be one of the keys to a Ravens' victory.

Penn Live’s Kasinitz: "Nobody needs to remind Ravens coaches of Boyd's potential. He's topped 60 receiving yards in four of his past five games against Baltimore, and he delivered a dagger in the 2017 regular-season finale with a 49-yard fourth-down touchdown in the closing minutes of a Bengals win that knocked the Ravens out of the playoff contention. In 2020, there's extra reason to pay close attention to Boyd, who has emerged as rookie quarterback Joe Burrow's favorite target. … The Bengals can move the fifth-year receiver around the offense, because Boyd thrives running routes out of the slot or from the edge of the field. The Ravens will know where he lines up each play Sunday. The challenge is to keep him from getting open."

The Ravens should be able to have success running the ball.

The Baltimore Sun’s Walker: "Cincinnati has struggled against the run, allowing opponents to average 4.9 yards per carry. The Bengals gave up at least 155 rushing yards in each of their first three games, including 215 against the Cleveland Browns. Cincinnati's linebacking corps, which includes former Raven Josh Bynes, has graded poorly against the run, according to Pro Football Focus."

This will be the beginning of a long rivalry between Jackson and Burrow.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio: "We're looking for the new Tom Brady-Peyton Manning [rivalry], Burrow and Jackson for the next 10-15 years twice a year, maybe three times some years, that could be pretty good."

Table inside Article
Source Team Selected Panelists Score Comments
10 of 10 panelists pick Ravens N/A
Baltimore Sun
4 of 4 panelists pick Ravens “Joe Burrow has played well as a rookie and has a bright future ahead of him, but he doesn’t have the supporting cast, especially on defense, to keep up with a team the caliber of the Ravens.“— Daniel Oyefusi
USA Today
7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens N/A
Ravens 30, Bengals 21 “Don't be surprised if smoking Joe Burrow moves the ball against a lagging Baltimore pass rush, but I'm not yet buying into Cincy's improved defensive numbers.”— Gregg Rosenthal
NFL Network
6 of 6 panelists pick Ravens N/A
Sporting News
Ravens 38, Bengals 21 “They love playing from ahead and turning on the snowball effect as their defense is better equipped to rush the passer. That should happen here at home against the Bengals' defense.”— Vinnie Iyer
CBS Sports
8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens “This will be Joe Burrow against that attacking, blitzing defense of the Ravens. He's been good so far, but can he and his line hold up here? I don't think they can. Lamar Jackson will have a field day against the Bengals defense. This won't be pretty.”— Pete Prisco
Pro Football Talk
3 of 3 panelists pick Ravens “I like Joe Burrow a lot, but I think it’s going to be another year before the Bengals have a team around him that can win consistently. They’re certainly not winning in Baltimore.”— Michael David Smith
Sports Illustrated
6 of 6 panelists pick Ravens N/A
Ravens 31, Bengals 22 N/A

Bengals Reshaped Defense This Offseason With Jackson, Ravens in Mind

Jackson had no shortage of highlight-reel plays in 2019, but the one that stands above them all was his dazzling, 47-yard touchdown run against the Bengals in Week 10.

As Jackson darted and spun past defenders, CBS announcer Kevin Harlan provided a fitting soundtrack to the magical display of athleticism:

"Oh, he broke his ankles! … He is Houdini!"

Ravens fans will never tire of watching the play that broke ankles and the internet, but Bengals coaches and players undoubtedly have seen it way too much. They certainly don't want to be highlight fodder for Jackson again this season.

Jackson and the Ravens were a major catalyst for Cincinnati reshaping its defense this offseason, according to The Athletic's Jay Morrison. In Jackson's three career games against the Bengals (all wins), he has rushed for 336 yards and two touchdowns.

"Figuring out a way to be better at stopping the run in general, and dealing with Jackson and the Ravens in particular, was at the heart of the defensive overhaul that saw the Bengals spend a record $126 million in free agency in addition to using three of their seven draft picks on linebackers," Morrison wrote. "The Ravens only make up for two of 16 games on the schedule, but there is a disproportionate level of focus that has to go into designing a plan to deal with them."

In addition to the new players on defense, including former Ravens linebacker Josh Bynes, the Bengals also added experienced assistants Steve Jackson (cornerbacks) and Al Golden (linebackers) to the coaching staff.

The defense built to stop Jackson and the Ravens gets its first shot at it Sunday, and the play the Bengals are sick of seeing is sure to be a part of every local and national preview package leading up to the game, Morrison wrote.

"It is what it is," Bengals Defensive Line Coach Nick Eason said. "Lamar made a great play, and you don't want to take any credit away from him. It's the media's job to highlight it. If you don't like it, don't put plays like that on tape."

Dan Orlovsky: Ravens Are Feeling Marshal Yanda's Absence

The Ravens are averaging 30.5 points per game this season, but the offense hasn't been clicking the way it did last season. ESPN's Dan Orlovsky said the reason is inconsistent play from the offensive line, which is feeling the loss of eight-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda to retirement.

"Marshal Yanda, the Hall of Fame right guard, was the foundation. Now there's cracks in that offensive line," Orlovsky said. "They're not nearly as dominant, especially internally. It starts with his replacement Tyre Phillips. Young player, hopefully he's going to be a good player. He's not moving the line of scrimmage, he's getting beat on his one-on-one blocks.

"Their center [Matt] Skura is coming off a knee injury. Surgery on his knee. The internal play of that offensive line is different this year. They miss Marshal Yanda dearly. They're also asking their fullback to go block out in space like they did with Hayden Hurst, and that isn't happening as well."

Everyone knew filling Yanda's spot would be a challenge and there would be a period of adjustment for the Ravens, but there is cause for optimism. Phillips, a third-round pick, is just four games into his career and, as Head Coach John Harbaugh said, "is only going to get better."

Even without Yanda, the Ravens' offensive line was ranked fourth-best in the NFL by Pro Football Focus heading into Week 3.

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