Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Three Players To Watch

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Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) is hit in the backfield by Cincinnati Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson (20) and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) during the second quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Flacco

It may seem like a no brainer to pick the quarterback as a pivotal player for any game, but last year’s dual matchups show a common theme.  In the first matchup, which the Ravens won in overtime, Flacco was 20 of 36 for 140 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.  He absorbed five sacks and lost a fumble on top of that.  Perhaps the only reason the Ravens were able to escape with a victory was because of their defense, which sacked Andy Dalton five times and notched three interceptions of their own.

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In game two, it was even worse.  Flacco threw an astounding 50 passes, completing 30 for 192 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.  He was sacked twice.  Much of the blame can go to the offensive line, but also the running game, which averaged an anemic 2.8 yards per carry in game one, and 3.4 in game two.  No wide receiver topped 63 yards in either game.

But Flacco has to get rid of the ball quicker, a common problem from 2013.  Gary Kubiak has worked to help Flacco make quicker decisions and get the ball out, all while implementing three step drops.  The system, combined with a more effective run game, should make for a much better outing this season.  But it’s all up to Flacco to make it work.