Baltimore Ravens opponent preview: Cincinnati Bengals


Here we are. The first home game of the season and the first divisional game of the season. These things alone make this game high priority.  Add the fact that the Baltimore Ravens are 0-2 and this game is virtually a must win.

However, the 2-0 Cincinnati Bengals are the team standing in the Ravens way of a win and as it stands, this game certainly seems like a daunting task. John Harbaugh referred to the Bemgals as the best team in the NFL, so what makes them seem so good?

The Bengals are coming off yet another Wild Card weekend loss, for a record 4th consecutive time, and many people see this year as Andy Dalton’s final chance to prove he is the long term answer for the Bengals. Though he is under contact for many more years, he must show that he can perform when it matters to avoid a QB controversy next year.

That said, he’s certainly started this year like any Bengals fan would’ve hoped. Not only has he led the Bengals to two wins, he’s looked good in both, and his stats back him up. He’s completed 41 of 60 passes for 483 yards and 5 touchdowns with no turnovers.

However, with an offense as well equipped as the Bengals, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The Bengals boast one of the best offensive lines in the league and they have youth ready and waiting to fill in. The O-line paves the way for arguably the best young backfield in the NFL in Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard.

When the O-line is left to just protect, Andy Dalton has all day to find his targets, who just happen to be a top 5 receiver and a quickly ascending tight end. A.J Green is one of those targets, and he is a beast. He’s tall, long, quietly fast, and has very good hands.  He’s been a thorn in the Ravens side over the last 2 seasons, catching 18 passes for 343 yards and 3 touchdowns in only 3 games.

Sep 20, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert (85) and wide receiver A.J. Green (18) celebrate during the game against the San Diego Chargers in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati defeated San Diego 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Alongside Green is Tyler Eifert, this year’s early breakout star. In week 1 last year a gruesome elbow injury caused him to miss the entire season. This year he is back and is showing exactly why he was a 1st round pick 2 years ago. Through the first 2 games of the season Eifert has 13 catches for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns, and is quickly becoming a reliable and favorable red zone target for Andy Dalton.

Along with Green and Eifert, Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones, despite slow starts, are not to be forgotten about. Sanu filled in well as the number 1 receiver during Green’s absence last year and Jones has a knack for the big play. He did, after all, catch 4 touchdown passes against the Ravens in the season finale 2 years ago.

With all that said, the defense certainly can’t be forgotten. Over the past few years the Bengals have had one of the best defensive units in the league with strengths in all areas. This year seems no different. They are 6th in the league in total offensive yards per game (300) and 3rd in the league in points per game (16).

Last year their defensive line was not as good as it should’ve been, but a large factor in it’s inability to rush the passer was the lack of a fully fit Geno Atkins. But he’s back now and the pass rush already looks better, with 6 sacks on the year thus far.

Aug 24, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The defense is, however, without it’s other leader, Vontaze Burfict. Burfict burst onto the scene in 2013, taking over as the leader of the defense and leading the NFL in tackles, propelling him to the Pro Bowl and a big new contract.

However, in January Burfict had microfracture knee surgery . The nature of the rehab from the surgery has resulted in Burfict finding himself on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which will keep him out until week 8.

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Their secondary also can’t be taken for granted. With veteran players Adam Jones, Leon Hall, and Reggie Nelson infused with younger stars George Iloka, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Darqueze Dennard, the Bengals have the ability to shut down most passing attacks. This year they’ve allowed just 406 combined passing yards.

The Ravens certainly face their biggest test of the year this weekend, especially as the Bengals have seemed to have the Ravens number lately, winning 4 of the last 6 meetings. Sitting at 0-2, how the Ravens play could go a long way in deciding the fate of this season, so there is plenty to be excited for, Ravens fans.

Next: Ravens vs. Bengals: Keys to victory

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