Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ravens-Bengals Preview

This is the type of game that players love but keeps the coaching staff up at night worrying about an emotional letdown. Fresh off a dominating 36-7 victory over Philadelphia, the Ravens should dominate the Bengals as the two teams are going in opposite directions.

The Ravens will need to avoid looking past Cincinnati and ahead to next week's game with the Washington Redskins on Sunday night. Though the Bengals (1-9-1) are last in total offense, playmakers like Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh can still hurt a secondary that played extremely well last week but is still battling injuries. Ryan Fitzpatrick can make plays with his arm if the defense cannot apply consistent pressure.

Look for the Ravens to take some early shots downfield and then settle into the running game. In the season opener, Baltimore rushed for 229 yards and dominated the time of possession by nearly 13 minutes in the 17-10 victory over Cincinnati.

The key to an easy victory will be jumping ahead early. The longer the Ravens leave the Bengals in the game, Cincinnati's confidence will grow, making it difficult to pull away. The Ravens need to crush the Bengals' spirit early, making them quit.

This is the kind of game that often plagued the Brian Billick-led Ravens. It's easy to look past this game and chalk it up as a victory, but John Harbaugh consistently preaches to his players to live in the moment and not think about what's down the road. Trailing Pittsburgh by one game in the division, the Ravens know how important every game is down the stretch.

The Ravens have not swept the season series with the Bengals since 2002 and have not won in Cincinnati since 2004. Look for both of these streaks to end Sunday as Joe Flacco makes Bengals fans miss what they have in Carson Palmer.

The Ravens' exotic defensive looks will confuse Fitzpatrick, leading to a few turnovers to give Flacco and the offense a shorter field.

The prediction: Ravens 27-16

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