Bengals Are a Unanimous Pick to Bounce Baltimore
The consensus among the pundits is that the Ravens' stay in the playoffs will be a short one.
Every one of the 28 pundits we looked at predicted the visiting Ravens to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals in Sunday night's wild-card round game.
It's understandable. The Bengals (12-4) are the defending AFC champions and have won eight straight games. The Ravens (10-7) have lost three of their past four and have struggled to score points without Lamar Jackson, who is expected to miss his sixth consecutive game after suffering a sprained PCL in Week 13.
The Bengals are favored by 9.5 points and have an 83.1% chance of winning (by an average of 12 points), according to ESPN's Football Power Index.
However, the Ravens defense is playing at a high level, and the players are embracing the underdog role. Moreover, the Ravens are 6-0 all-time in the wild-card round, with five of those victories coming under Head Coach John Harbaugh.
Here's what the pundits are saying about the game:
The Ravens don't stand a chance without Jackson.
Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith: "If Lamar Jackson were 100 percent healthy, I'd be tempted to pick the Ravens to pull the upset. Without Jackson, the Bengals should cruise to a win."
The Ravens' defense will keep them in the game.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal: "This Ravens defense is built to stop the Bengals. They are rangy, athletic and versatile on the outside, the rare team that can slow down the Bengals' weapons. It happened a week ago, and the right side of the Bengals' offensive line isn't going to give Joe Burrow the time he needs. Baltimore stops the run so well the Bengals will become one-dimensional. Burrow will still make plays, but this will be the toughest defense Cincinnati faces in the AFC. Luckily for the Bengals, 20 points should be enough to win."
CBS Sports’ John Breech: "The Bengals have only lost ONE game this year where all their key players were fully healthy and that came in Week 5 against the Ravens and that's one reason why this game is so interesting. I don't want to say the Ravens defense has figured out Joe Burrow, but they've certainly stepped up their game over the past 12 months. After getting embarrassed by Burrow in 2021 — the Bengals QB averaged 470 passing yards per game against them — the Ravens didn't even let him hit 470 yards total this year (Burrow threw for 217 in Week 5 and 215 in Week 18). If the Ravens can once again hold Burrow under 225 yards, then they're going to have a chance to win on Sunday, and there's definitely a good chance that could happen. The Bengals lost right guard Alex Cappa to injury in Week 18, which means they'll be missing both their starting right guard and right tackle this week (RT La'el Collins was lost for the season in Week 16)."
Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer: "The Ravens will stay in it by stopping the run and going after Burrow well at times vs. a one-dimensional attack, but the visitors just can't find enough offensive pop to win the Week 18 rematch."
Whether Burrow can solve the Ravens defense is the deciding factor.
The Ringer’s Steven Ruiz: "Burrow hasn't played well against [Mike] Macdonald's defense, but he has seen a lot of it now. That should be a concern for the Ravens. The young quarterback is a quick learner and he should have a better grasp on what he's seeing in the third contest. On Sunday, Burrow just missed on several deep passes that he usually hits with ease. The throws weren't good enough, but those plays suggest that Burrow has already started to catch on to Macdonald's tactics. If the Bengals quarterback can just play that matchup to a draw, Cincinnati will score enough points to win the tie-breaking game with ease. If not, Baltimore could pull off an upset."
Bold prediction: Burrow won't throw a touchdown pass.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "Burrow threw a franchise-record 35 touchdown passes this season, recording at least one in every game this season. But he only totaled two TD passes in two meetings against the Ravens, who have allowed the second-fewest touchdown passes (13) since Week 3."
Roquan Smith could be a difference-maker.
The 33rd Team’s Marvin Lewis: "He can be a huge factor in this game, helping [the Ravens] control that line of scrimmage, and even in the passing game because he is so effective in getting in the passing lanes."
The Bengals will prevail, but never count out Harbaugh's Ravens.
The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia: "The 2022 Bengals are better than last year's version that made the Super Bowl. They went 12-4, won eight straight games late this season (and had their Week 17 game canceled) and lost just one game by more than three points. But those offensive line injuries could be tough to overcome. As for the Ravens, there's no real reason to think they can actually win this game. They're just so limited offensively without Jackson. Baltimore failed to score more than 17 points in each of its last six games. They're going to have to lean all the way into the strengths of the team: defense and special teams. But the Ravens have a coach in John Harbaugh who will come up with a specific game plan to try to maximize the team's strengths and mask its weaknesses. In the end, I don't think it's going to be enough to win."
The Athletic's Vic Tafur: "Tyler Huntley will likely get the nod at quarterback for the Ravens, as Lamar Jackson remains out. If he can avoid turnovers, the Ravens will stay close and might even pull off the upset. It seems like we need a reminder every now and then of what a good coach John Harbaugh is."
Running the ball out of 22 personnel gives the Ravens a chance to win.
ESPN's Matt Bowen: "The Ravens have to go big, expanding out of 22 personnel (2 RB, 2 TE, 1 WR). Run outside zone against the Bengals' five-man fronts, or lean on gap concepts (GT power). In the two previous games against the Bengals this season, the Ravens rushed for 122 yards on 22 personnel runs. They have an opportunity to control the offensive tempo with running back J.K. Dobbins — who was rested in Week 18 -- seeing heavy volume."
Rookie TE Isaiah Likely is the Ravens' X-factor.
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks: "The Ravens need another pass catcher to emerge as a credible threat to alleviate some pressure on Mark Andrews to carry the passing game. Likely could fill the void as a crafty route runner with enough speed and quickness to separate from linebackers and safeties down the field. If opponents elect to take away Andrews with brackets and double teams, the rookie could see an increase in targets and touches. It doesn't hurt that he just posted season highs in targets (13), catches (eight) and yards (103) against the Bengals, who are about to host the Ravens for the second time in as many weeks."
|ESPN||5 of 5 panelists pick Bengals|
|Baltimore Sun||Bengals 24, Ravens 19||“The Ravens have found an effective formula for frustrating Joe Burrow and his crew of gifted pass catchers. But we simply have not seen evidence they can score enough points with Tyler Huntley in place of Lamar Jackson at quarterback. The Bengals will hold them off in a tense, punishing game.”— Childs Walker|
|NFL.com||Bengals 20, Ravens 14||“It's concerning that the Ravens were able to run the ball well at times last week even with so many starters out. The Ravens will try to slow down the pace and limit possessions because they know they are an inferior team, assuming Tyler Huntley starts at quarterback. If Anthony Brown is in, take four more points away from the Ravens. The familiarity of the two sides is an equalizer and would be on upset watch if Lamar Jackson was right, but there’s not much reason to believe that will be the case.” — Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||10 of 10 panelists pick Bengals|
|Sporting News||Bengals 23, Ravens 20||“The Ravens will stay in it by stopping the run and going after [Joe] Burrow well at times vs. a one-dimensional attack, but the visitors just can't find enough offensive pop to win the Week 18 rematch.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||7 of 7 panelists pick Bengals||“The big issue here is whether Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson can play. I will make the assumption that he does play here. He certainly will be rusty coming off missing five weeks, but he's better than the alternative of him not playing. The Bengals have ripped off eight straight victories, not counting the canceled game, and they've looked every bit as good as the team that went to the Super Bowl last year. They beat up the Ravens last week, but that doesn't matter. What will matter is Joe Burrow having a big day. The Bengals will move on.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||2 of 2 panelists pick Bengals||“If Lamar Jackson were 100 percent healthy, I’d be tempted to pick the Ravens to pull the upset. Without Jackson, the Bengals should cruise to a win.” — Michael David Smith|
|Fansided||Bengals 24, Ravens 18||“The Ravens can run the ball with brutal efficiency, and the defense can match up outside against Bengals receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins with corners Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. But is that enough to actually win?” — Matt Verderame|
Tyler Linderbaum Named Offensive Rookie of the Year by Sports Analytics Outlet
Center Tyler Linderbaum was named Offensive Rookie of the Year by Sports Info Solutions.
The SIS All-Rookie Teams were selected by using a combination of advanced stats and voting among members of the football operations staff, with emphasis placed upon SIS' player value stat (Total Point).
"Our pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year, the center out of Iowa dominated in his first year at the NFL level, starting all 17 games for the Ravens," SIS' Nathan Cooper wrote. "Linderbaum's 43 Total Points not only led all rookie offensive linemen, but it also ranked third among all NFL centers. His Total Points (23) and Points Above Average (6.6) on run plays trailed just Jason Kelce. His 1.3% overall blown block rate and 1.1% blown block rate on run plays also stand out in the Top 10."
Meanwhile, Linderbaum and fellow Ravens first-round pick Kyle Hamilton were named to Pro Football Focus' All-Rookie Team.
"Linderbaum is already nothing short of an elite run-blocking center," PFF’s Brad Renner wrote. "While his 26 pressures allowed in pass protection is a bit high, what Linderbaum can do at the second level in the run game is special. The Ravens got a future Pro Bowler, if not All-Pro.
"Hamilton found his home in the slot for the Ravens around midseason and was a big reason for their defensive turnaround. He finished the season with an 82.3 overall grade, as he was active against both the run and pass. His 10 coverage stops from the slot were the sixth-most in the NFL."