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Ravens vs. Bengals: Expert picks, analysis and predictions

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What are the experts saying about Round 2 of this AFC North rivalry between the Bengals and Ravens?

Andy Lyons

The Bengals are in need of a win in the worst way when the surging Ravens come to town. After a red-hot 3-0 start, Cincinnati has gone a month without tasting victory while falling to 3-2-1.

On the other side, the Ravens have surged into first place in the AFC North after winning five of their past six games. They've done so thanks to their firey offense that's scored 29-plus points in three of their past four games.

The two teams met in Week 1, in a game where Cincinnati escaped with a 23-16 win after A.J. Green caught a go-ahead 77-yard score late in the fourth quarter.

What are the experts saying about Round 2 of this AFC North rivalry?

ESPN's panel has the Ravens winning by a 10-3 margin, while CBS Sports confirms the Ravens' ever-so-slight edge with a 5-3 prediction among its group.

SB Nation's seven-man team sees things going the Ravens' way, 5-2. NFL.com's staff likes the Bengals though, and at last check, they had three votes in favor of Cincinnati.

Coley Harvey has the Bengals holding serve at home, where they haven't lost in two years.

Cincinnati has played three games at home and three games on the road this season, but it has been significantly better offensively at Paul Brown Stadium. There, inside the place nicknamed "The Jungle," the Bengals have 450 more total yards, four fewer sacks allowed, 34 more first downs and a 17 percent higher completion percentage than on the road. After a month away from the "W" column, the Bengals will get back there this week, thanks to their offense.

Butch Hobson has Bengals OT Andrew Whitworth vs. Ravens LB Terrell Suggs as the matchup of the game.

Profootbalfocus.com, which grades every NFL player, agrees. Since the web site’s inception, Whitworth is routinely at the top of its charts for pass blocking and he’s currently tied for second with Washington’s Trent Williams and behind Cleveland’s Joe Thomas. But he’s given up fewer sacks than Thomas by 1-0 and fewer QB hits than Williams by 3-1. Whitworth also agrees with Jones that he’s stronger this year after losing two games to his knee problem in 2013 and say it’s the best he’s felt physically in three of four years even though he turns 33 in seven weeks.

This has to be the PFF Game of the Week. Suggs is rated the site’s best overall 3-4 outside linebacker and No. 3 pass rusher. Dumervil is rated the top rusher. And the Bengals shut them out for sacks in the Sept. 7 opener.

My Prediction: I'm going to assume that the Bengals don't have A.J. Green, and that will make life much easier on the Ravens defense. Without him, Cincinnati will have nobody capable of stretching the field, and that will allow the defensive backs to play closer to the line of scrimmage and stop the Bengals' other offensive weapons, which aren't much to speak of outside of Green.

This is the strategy the Colts utilized in shutting out the Bengals in Week 7: Crowd the box and play DBs close to their men to make the Bengals have to beat them deep to get anything going on offense.

Cincinnati was unable to do that, and that's why they scored zero points against Indianapolis. The Ravens defense will shut down the Bengals offense and never give it anything easy.

On the other side, Baltimore will use a balanced attack on the ground and through the air that keeps the Bengals defense off balance while allowing the Ravens offense to dominate the time-of-possession battle.

Baltimore wins 26-16