Ravens vs. Bengals: Picks and predictions from Ebony Bird
Darin McCann makes his pick:
Remember when the Cleveland Browns came to Baltimore and beat the good guys to the tune of 40-25, evening up the AFC North chase as both teams left the field with matching 2-2 records? No? Well, just ask any Cleveland Browns fan. It’s the only thing they have to talk about these days.
Regardless, the fortunes of those two teams have gone in different directions from that point, as the Browns have imploded to the tune of a 2-6 mark, while the Ravens cleaned up their act and have moved to 6-2, with two big wins in a row coming against the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, respectively.
Do you know whose act hasn’t changed? The Cincinnati Bengals. They are 0-8 at this point of the season, making them the only winless team in the NFL after the Miami Dolphins topped the New York Jets last weekend in the Stink Bowl. Oh, wait. They have changed. They benched their Raven-killing quarterback, Andy Dalton, and replaced him with a rookie fourth-round draft pick in Ryan Finley.
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This isn’t complicated.
The Bengals have given up a league-worst 177.6 yards rushing per game this year. The Ravens, on the other hand, have produced a league-leading 204.9 yards rushing per game. Do you see where I’m going with this?
When you are facing a decided underdog, you don’t take chances that you commit a bunch of turnovers that can tilt the game. Rely on being better than the other team, and that means the Ravens need to run the ball down the Bengals collective throat all day with a combination of Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and Chester Taylor, if need be. Make the Bengals stop it. And, if they start dedicating nine or 10 defenders to the box, beat them up with safe passes to the tight end trio of Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle. Frighten them off with a deep pass attempt to Marquise Brown each half, or a crossing pattern over that stacked front.
This should be an easy formula on offense.
On defense, the Bengals have suffered running the ball, ranking dead last in the league at 59.5 yards per game. Conversely, the Ravens, led by the tackle tandem of Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce, have limited opponents to 83 yards a game, good for second in the league. Again, this is an obvious mismatch. With a rookie quarterback making his first start, expect the Bengals to try to rely on their running game. Expect them to fail at it.
• The Ravens run for more than 250 yards, led by Ingram’s 148 yards and two touchdowns.
• Matt Judon collects a sack and recovers a fumble on another sack.
• Mark Andrews hits the century mark in the air, grabbing eight balls for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Ravens 34 Bengals 9