Do the Baltimore Ravens have a fighting chance against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night? Yes, but most of their success depends on their defense.
Cincinnati won the most recent matchup, though that game was skewed given the Ravens’ choice to rest many of their starters and the Bengals’ choice to keep their playbook closed.
Recent reports reveal that the Ravens could play both their quarterbacks in the Wild Card game, perhaps trying to catch Lou Anarumo and the Bengals’ defense off guard. While the offense leaves much to be desired, Baltimore’s defense remains the star of the show, finding quite a bit of success against their AFC North rivals this season.
In two games against the Ravens, Burrow posted his second- and third-worst quarterback ratings of the season (82.7 and 81.0). The Bengals may have a top-five third-down offense in the league (46.1 percent conversion rate), but the Ravens have a top-five third-down defense (34.9 percent conversion rate).
Sans Lamar Jackson, the Ravens will go back to what they do best — ol’ fashioned, hard-nosed bully ball — and they can hopefully take advantage of a few crucial matchups on the field.
We spoke to Stripe Hype’s Leigh Oleszczak about her thoughts on the upcoming Wild Card game, and she mentioned the Bengals’ rushing attack as one of the team’s glaring weaknesses.
"The run game has not been good over the past month or so. Joe Mixon is still really good as a pass-catcher, but the run game has not been able to get going."
In the Bengals’ offensive line, waiver claim addition Max Scharping will make his first start of the season at right guard, taking Alex Cappa’s place (Cappa was injured in Week 18). Mike Macdonald should be able to create an effective pass-rush to attack that right side and hopefully throw a wrench in the Bengals’ passing rhythm.
Burrow showed off some impressive Jackson-esque scrambles in Week 18 — this time, the Ravens have to take him down early.
Ravens can exploit Bengals’ battered O-line and weak run game in Wild Card Round
Here’s the full Q&A with Leigh:
Q: The Bengals feel like the league did them dirty after the Damar Hamlin incident and rightfully so. What is the current vibe in the locker room leading up to this game?
A: The Bengals are entering the playoffs angry after what happened with the whole coin flip scenario. They avoided having to flip the coin, but you saw them play angry in the first half of the game against Baltimore in Week 18 and then kind of cool off in the second half so as not to spoil anymore of their playbook. They’re feeling confident and ready to give the middle finger to the league.
Q: Do you think the Bengals still have something to prove this season?
A: The Bengals definitely have something to prove. A lot of people thought the team got to the Super Bowl last year with a lot of luck on their side and that the run was a fluke. They’re out to prove that it wasn’t a fluke and that they’re a legitimate Super Bowl contender every year.
Q: What player matchup are you most excited about?
A: Ja’Marr Chase and Marlon Humphrey squaring off should be fun. Chase was pretty vocal this week about how he felt the Ravens were playing dirty, so whether it’s Humphrey or another Ravens defender trying to slow him down, he’s going to be a tough one to stop.
Q: The Alex Cappa injury is a tough loss for Cincy. How confident do you feel about the Bengals’ offensive line right now?
A: I’m not feeling great about the O-line, but the team has persevered in the past with a bad unit up front. Joe Burrow was sacked 9 times in the divisional round last year and the Bengals still won, so there are ways to get past that. It’s just not ideal obviously.
Q: Which Ravens players could give the Bengals problems this game?
A: The run game is going to be something to watch, especially with no Lamar Jackson. J.K. Dobbins is now well-rested and could deal this Cincy defense fits. Mark Andrews torched the Bengals defense in the final minutes of that Week 5 game so he’s another worry. Defensively, Roquan Smith is someone to always be fearful of, especially with a banged up offensive line.
Q: What is the biggest strength on the Bengals’ roster?
A: The biggest strength is the passing game, led by Burrow. He’s had some of his worst games against the Ravens this season, however, so they’ve been able to make him look human.
Q: Who wins? Give us your final score prediction.
A: I don’t think this will be the blowout that some fans are calling for but I do think the Bengals will pull off the W. I’ll go with a 27-21 Bengals victory.