To start the season, Andy Dalton has been exceptional. If this is the type of play we will see every game from the Bengals' quarterback, not only is the illusive playoff win a thing of the past, we could be talking Super Bowl.
But, we have been on this ride before. At times Dalton plays very well, and at others, well, he stinks.
A popular psychology principal has always been the best predictor of the future is the past. So based on past performances of Dalton against the Ravens, what could we see on Sunday?
Dalton has four wins and four losses against the Ravens. So with that stat, this game is a coin flip. As we dig deeper into the stats for Andy, we see an alarming trend against the Ravens. He historically has not played well.
In 2013, Dalton was absolutely atrocious against Baltimore. He topped his Week 10, three interception performance in Week 17 with a four interception game. Somehow, the Bengals were able to pull out a win in Dalton's four pick game.
Here are the stats, by year, for Dalton against the Ravens:
2014 was Andy's best statistical performance against the Ravens if you look at his quarterback rating and it should not surprise that the Bengals also swept the Ravens that year. The 2012 stats look similar to the 2014 stats, but what stands out is that Dalton only attained 299 yards in two games. That is an average of less than 150 yards a game. 2011 shows another year with multiple interceptions in a game.
The following two plays will give a glimpse into the kinds of mistakes that have been made against the Ravens in the past that hinder this team's ability to be successful. In the first you see a clean pocket and then an under throw from Dalton. The defender glances at the ball and makes a great play to break up the pass. The unlucky bounce into the air turns this play from a misfire to a disaster.
The second play is also a ball that probably led the receiver a little too much. If this pass was just a little on the back shoulder, it probably would have been a catch and quick tackle. As it played out, the defender was able to separate the ball a little from Sanu and once again, the ball bounces to an awaiting defender.
Both of these plays were errors by Dalton. These are the kinds of things a defense like the Ravens feasts on. If you give the Ravens' defense the opportunity to make plays, they will. This is one of the reasons the Ravens have been so good for so long.
What is going to be important on Sunday is for the Bengals to not allow Dalton to slide into a mode where he may regress to these mistakes. Keeping the pocket clean and establishing the run allows Andy to make good decisions and not force the football into windows he shouldn't even consider.