Gameday preview: Cincinnati Bengals vs Baltimore Ravens

The Cincinnati Bengals have lost the last three matchups against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens are tumbling on a three-game losing streak. Which team’s streak will end come Sunday as the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Baltimore Ravens at 1:00 pm (ET) at M&T Bank Stadium in hopes of keeping their playoff run alive?

Baltimore Raven's running back Ray Rice is having a down year with only 259 yards and 2.7 YPC. Will he have a break out game vs. a injury-plagued Bengals' defense

Baltimore Raven’s running back Ray Rice is having a down year with only 259 yards and 2.7 YPC. Will he have a break out game vs. an injury-plagued Bengals’ defense?

If the Cincinnati Bengals win in Baltimore, then their hopes of a fourth playoff appearance in five years can become a little more certain  – if they lose (and Cleveland wins), their top spot in the AFC North suddenly gets very crowded.But before we start talking playoffs, the Bengals are focusing on a Ravens team that is reeling. And if the Bengals learned anything from the upsetting defeat last Thursday to a Dolphins team that was on a four-game losing streak, it’s that streaks have to end sometime.

 

Let’s recap some keys to find out whose streak will end:

 

1. Good or Bad Andy

It’s unfortunate that quarterbacks are burdened with the weight of defeat in a team sport, but then again they’re lauded with praise in victories and are paid a lot more than other players so it comes with the territory.

For Bengals’ QB Andy Dalton, he took the blame in the upsetting OT defeat to the Miami Dolphins, in which we saw one of his worst games of the seasons, just a few days after having one of the best of his career.

Dalton critiques have spoken of his inabilities to throw an accurate deep ball and that Dalton is inconsistent as well. In his third season as an NFL starting quarterback, Dalton is starting to put those demons to rest, but as we saw last week in Florida, he has a ways to go.

That might be a little harder than it sounds because, even though the Baltimore Ravens are struggling this season, and the defense is without its long-time veterans Ray Lewis and Ed Reed (retirement and free agency respectively), they still rank 10th in overall yards and 14th in passing.

After giving up a season-high three interception with no touchdowns and QB rating of 55.4, Dalton still managed to do good things against Miami like going 10-15 on third-down which has been a bright spot this season.

Dalton & company will be going up against a good Raven’s defense overall that features linebacker Terrell Suggs whose having a monstrous season with 9.0 sacks and 60 tackles after half a season.

If the Bengals’ tackles Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith can keep Suggs at bay, and the inside can keep the always dangerous Haloti Ngata out of Dalton’s face mask then the Bengals’ chances look promising.

While Ravens' Qb Joe Flacco has been having a down year with 10 td's against nine interceptions, he is liable to have a breakout game at any time.

While Ravens’ Qb Joe Flacco has been having a down year with 10 td’s against nine interceptions, he is liable to have a breakout game at any time.

2. Which running game will help its offense?

For the Ravens, Ray Rice is having the ultimate underperforming season. He has accumulated a paltry 259 yards on 97 carries for a 2.7 average per carry, and unfortunately for him, he is facing a premiere NFL running defense in the Bengals.

However, the Bengals gave up a season-high 157 rushing yards to the Miami Dolphins, and while some may argue that Geno Atkins got hurt, that wasn’t until nearly a full half into the game and the Dolphins already had close to 90 yards by the halfway point.

Ray Rice is 26 years old, and by NFL standards, that’s close to retirement age for running backs, but most of his woes this season stem from a dreadful offensive line that can’t give him a hole or keep QB Joe Flacco in a comfortable pocket.

With the Bengals thin in the middle defensively with the injuries to Atkins and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, the Ravens might have an opportunity to get the ground game going if its offensive line is up to the task.

Conversely, the Cincinnati Bengals’ running duo of Giovanni Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis might be looking at limited playing time this week because of the powerhouse the Ravens have up the middle with veteran’s Ngata and Suggs leading the way. Bernard and Green-Ellis have a combined 785 yards on 212 carries for 3.7 yards per carry which is good enough for a 19th ranking.

What this game will boil down to is how effective the running game can be against good run defenses to help the passing game open up. The Bengals have the obvious edge on the offensive side of the ball, but their defense is woefully thin and it’s starting to show.

Prediction:

Bengals' DE Carlos Dunlap will need to have a big game against the Ravens with Geno Atkins out for the season with an ACL tear.

Bengals’ DE Carlos Dunlap will need to have a big game against the Ravens with Geno Atkins out for the season with an ACL tear.

With the defenses coming into this game, it’s going to be on the offensive lines and which one will give the running backs lanes and keep the quarterbacks upright. The Ravens’ season is on the line; the Bengals want leave Baltimore with a win before heading home to face Cleveland a week before their Bye.

The Ravens have always been pesky for the Bengals at home and they might just have it in them to keep the Bengals’ losing streak at M&T Bank Stadium alive.

Ravens muster out a must-need win and the top of the AFC North starts to get crowded.

Ravens 24, Bengals 17