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Prepping for Thursday Night's Game

Scouts.com does their usual good work previewing the Bengals/Ravens game.

When the Ravens have the ball
Rushing: Although Jamal Lewis and the Ravens' rushing attack aren't overly dynamic, they still get the edge -- by a substantial margin -- against the suspect run defense of Cincinnati.

Passing: Quarterbacks have torched the Bengals and consistently put up big numbers this year. Steve McNair was very sharp in these teams' last meeting. McNair continues to impress week after week. He is now extremely comfortable in this offense, has great timing and rhythm, while utilizing many receiving options.

When the Bengals have the ball
Rushing: Running backs just don't do well against the Ravens' defense, but the Bengals will still use Rudi Johnson to pound on Baltimore's defense and potentially force it to bring SS Dawan Landry into the box. If the Bengals can force Landry near the line of scrimmage, their passing game could really open up. This is easier said than done, but Cincinnati has the talent to accomplish it at home in this game.

Passing: Carson Palmer had one of his worst games as a starter in these teams' first meeting, going just 12-of-26 for 195 yards. However, he looks like a different player now and has been lethal throwing the football over the past several games. He has great touch, gets the ball out of his hands quickly and decisively and has shown great command of the offense, especially the no-huddle attack

K.C. Joyner says of Chad Johnson:

Prior to the last two weeks, Johnson was having a very mediocre season, at least according to his standards. Through his first eight games Johnson had tallied a mere 482 receiving yards, a total that prorates out to just over 1,000 yards for a full season.

When his early-season struggles are contrasted with his record-breaking explosion over the past two games, it begs two questions:

1. How did he break out of his slump?
2. Can he continue to produce at this pace?

Rudi Johnson said of Rich Braham:

"I know if there's any chance he's going to play, I know he's going to play," tailback Rudi Johnson said. "I hope he can play, man. I have my fingers crossed, both of them. If he can play, he's going to make everybody else's job easier."

And not slamming Eric Ghiaciuc, but Rich Braham has been one of the most under-appreciated guys on this team. Rudi calls him "our rock".

"Of course. That’s our leader," running back Rudi Johnson said before practice. "That’s the guy who sets the tone up front and makes sure everybody is in the right place at the right time. If we get that guy back, that’s a big plus. I’m hoping and wishing he can come back Thursday night."

Reflecting on the first meeting, the Bengals are set to correct things that went wrong.

"It hurts looking at (video of the first game)," Palmer said, "because it's embarrassing."

However, the Ravens are one win from closing the Bengals out of the AFC North title.

Speaking of this Thursday's game; is it a telling sign of the irreversible path of greed the NFL is going down? A critical and high profile game like this shouldn't be played when the players get little to no rest. Just a thought.

Teammates eager for Braham's return [Enquirer]
Braham unable to finish practice [Columbus Dispatch]
Palmer vs. Ravens D equals great theater [ESPN Insider]
Johnson facing stiff competition [ESPN Insider]
Ravens trying to clinch [Enquirer]
Memories of Ravens haunting [Columbus Dispatch]
Bengals' work week tweaked for Thursday game [DDN]
Satellite TV only local option for Bengals-Ravens game [DDN]
Kaesviharn leads NFL in picks [Post]
Ravens play well on both sides [Post]