Ray Rice is one of only three running backs with more than 500 rushing yards and more than 400 receiving yards in the NFL at this point in the season. The other two are Bills running back Fred Jackson and Texans running back Arian Foster. Rice has 559 rushing yards and 470 receiving yards after nine game so far this season.
That puts him on pace to have just a fraction under 1,000 yards rushing and around 835 yards receiving on the year. That rushing total wouldn't be his best season on the ground but the 835 yards would be far be his best season when it came to receiving yards.
The Bengals defense has been tough against the run and they've never allowed Ray Rice to rush for 100 yards against them. The most they have allowed on the ground to Rice in one game has been 87 yards in Week 2 of the 2010 season. So, making sure Rice doesn't burn them on the ground isn't necessarily a worry of mine, but keeping under control in the passing game is.
The Bengals allowed Chris Johnson to catch four passes for 46 yards in Week 9 and then they gave up a big 26-yard catch to Rashard Mendenhall on the Steelers' second scoring drive. All in all, the Bengals have only given up 192 yards in the air to opposing running backs and fullbacks, including only 32 yards receiving for Fred Jackson in Week 4. That's pretty good, especially considering all three starting linebackers are either new to the team or playing a new position. Still, they haven't seen a quarterback-running back duo like Joe Flacco and Rice yet.
The linebackers, when in man, will need to have a great game in pass coverage, especially Thomas Howard. Not having Leon Hall in support will hurt the Bengals if Rice gets left open in the flat so hopefully Adam Jones is healthy or Kelly Jennings steps up his game.
Hopefully the defensive line gets to Flacco before he can throw the ball but if they don't quite get to him in time, you could see a lot of passes to Rice out of the backfield because Flacco's being pressured. This is a huge game for the Bengals when it comes to getting back on track in the division. The loss to Pittsburgh knocked us from first place to third and took away our No. 1 seed in the conference. Luckily we're still in position to get a wild card spot but that can change with just another loss or two.
Historically Joe Flacco has had troubles with Mike Zimmer's defense when he plays Cincinnati. Hopefully that's still the case in 2011 but to control Flacco and the passing game, the defense will also need to know where Ray Rice is at all times.