Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Three Players To Watch

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Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce (30) runs the ball during the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Bernard Pierce

Outside of Joe Flacco, perhaps the most pressure will be on running back Bernard Pierce.  Pierce is making two starts in place of the suspended Ray Rice, receiving perhaps the biggest opportunity he has had yet.  Pierce is widely considered a better fit for the new zone read offense than Ray Rice, and could easily use these two games to seize the starting position for the remainder of the year.

But he’s going to have to do better than last year.  In game one, Pierce had 8 carries for 31 yards (3.9 average), and in game two had 5 carries for 28 yards (5.6 average).  This go round, he will have a lot more chances to prove himself.  Rice dominated carries in the first game with 18, but only had 6 in game two.  Those will likely go to Pierce this time around as he becomes a workhorse and not just a change of pace back.

Perhaps the most telling statistic from both games is time of possession.  The Bengals won this battle in both matchups – 37:58 to 31:35 in game one, 33:57 to 26:03 in game two.  If the Ravens hope to have any shot at winning this year’s first meeting between the two, they have got to move the chains via the ground game.  Plus, it will open things up for Flacco to do some damage in play action.