The Bengals and Ravens are two teams trending in opposite directions. While the Bengals enjoy a 25 point differential in their first two games and an 2-0 start, the Ravens have lost both their games this season. This Week 3 matchup looks like a must win for the boys in purple and the Bengals need to continue their strong play. Here are my 5 keys to a Bengals win on Sunday.
The Ravens' defense is not the feared beast it has been in the past. Losing Terrell Suggs removed one of the leaders on this squad and the output shows. Against Oakland last week the Ravens defense gave up 37 points and 448 yards to a team the Bengals did not allow on their half of the field until the fourth quarter. The Bengals are going to have opportunities in this game to break big plays, they need to play in the moment and take advantage of those and they will find success on offense. It will also take the life out of the sold out Ravens crowd.
Andy Dalton and Flacco share a common trait, both are terrible when pressured. Last season Dalton was credited with seven interceptions when pressured. This tied for most in the NFL with Flacco. So the theory is, pressure will force these quarterbacks into bad decisions. If the Bengals can continue the trend of pressuring opposing quarterbacks, the offense led by Flacco will not find success. I expect to see a ton of different looks on Sunday that allows guys in stripes to bother the Ravens' quarterback.
Run the ball
The Bengals are averaging over 150 yards rushing per game. If the Bengals are able to establish the run on the Ravens on Sunday, they will accomplish two things. The first is wearing down the defensive line. This is the tried and true recipe for a win in the AFC North and there is no reason to abandon that theory. The second is they will alleviate the schemes where the Ravens will be attempting to rattle Dalton. If you have to respect the run, the play action becomes a dangerous weapon for the offense. Linebackers are slower to the point of attack and safeties keep their eyes in the backfield and allow big plays.
Keep a pocket
As mentioned above, Dalton struggles under pressure. So far this season Dalton has enjoyed a semi-clean pocket and he is playing at a very high level. Keeping Dalton calm and upright will allow him to continue his trend of spreading the ball around and finding mismatches in the Ravens defense.
Reintroduce A.J. Green
In the past three games against the Ravens, A.J. Green has had a 50+ yard play in each game. The Ravens have to account for him as he can burn them on a single play and has shown it repeatedly. Combine that with the fact that the number one corner for the Ravens, Jimmy Smith, has given up 10 completions on 16 targets for 141 yards and a touchdown and has not faced a player with the same ability as Green. The Bengals need to find that moment when Green can make a big play and exploit this defense.
Leave your thoughts in the comments on what you think is key on Sunday and we will revisit next week when we are hopefully celebrating a Bengals win.