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Week 17 Bengals vs Ravens: Behind Enemy Lines

Can the Bengals extend their recent string of dominance over the Baltimore Ravens? We sat down with Nathan Beaucage of Baltimore Beatdown to discuss.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have won four straight against the Ravens and five of their last six. This week, we sat down with Nathan Beaucage of Baltimore Beatdown to talk Ravens vs Bengals and whether or not the Bengals can extend their recent dominance against their AFC North rival.

1) Due to regional coverage, I had the opportunity to watch the entire Ravens/Steelers game last Sunday and was pretty impressed with how Ryan Mallett played (not sure if he surprised me or the Steelers more!). Do you see Mallett willing to take a backup role behind Joe Flacco next year? And if so, do you see the Ravens trying to resign him for 2016? Or do you think his price tag will be more than the Ravens are willing to pay for a backup?

I think Ryan Mallett would be very grateful for the backup job in Baltimore. He went from being the laughingstock of the league to potentially finding a job in Baltimore who gave him a second chance, so I think he'd be pretty happy with the gig. As for payment, the Ravens shelled out $2,000,000 for Matt Schaub, so I can't imagine signing Mallett for a comparable amount would cause too much of a stir.

2) I can't remember a team more decimated by injuries than the 2015 Ravens. Do you feel the Ravens' struggles in 2015 are the result of injuries? Or are there other issues (holes on the team), which are being masked by the string of injuries?

When your team has 20 players on the IR, with a majority being impact players, it's easy to blame injuries. But even without the injuries, the Ravens' secondary wasn't exactly formidable. None of the offseason signings went as planned for the Ravens, and Jimmy Smith hasn't recovered well from his Lisfranc injury last year. There's no doubt in my mind that a healthy Ravens squad would still be bogged down by secondary troubles.

3) Even with a win Sunday, the Ravens will likely have a top 10 pick in the 2016 NFL draft. If you were in the Ravens draft room, what direction would go with their first two picks?

To me, with a top 10 pick, we need a secondary prospect. Someone to build a completely new unit around. If Jalen Ramsey or Vernon Hargreaves are still on the board, I'm taking them. If not, which is a very possible scenario, I would strongly consider trading back. From there, I would take a strong OT like Germain Ifedi in the early second, and then take a shot at some secondary prospects like Jeremy Cash and William Jackson with my new picks.

4) I mentioned above that I was impressed with Mallett last week, but the Ravens also kept Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown from scoring any touchdowns. How were the Ravens able to slow the Pittsburgh passing attack?

I honestly just feel as if the Ravens have figured out the Steelers. I know it sounds silly, but the Ravens almost had a sixth sense about knowing what the Steelers were going to do next. John Harbaugh is like a Jedi Master on Steelers Week.

In all seriousness, it was probably an effective pass rush that halted the Steelers' passing attack. The pressure got home early and often, and Ben Roethlisberger was on the ground a lot. The Ravens also limited the amount of deep shots the Steelers took, which is their bread and butter play. The Steelers were forced to play dink-and-dunk, which just isn't a good fit for them.

5) The Bengals have won five of their last six against the Ravens, including their current four game win streak. Do you see any particular reason why Baltimore has struggled with Cincinnati? And what do the Ravens need to do in order to beat the Bengals this Sunday?

The Ravens-Bengals games are like a coin toss nowadays. Normally it ends with the Ravens losing a close one by making a dumb mistake. The Bengals are also really balanced in terms of talent on both offense and defense, which is something you don't see a lot in the league.

To defeat the Bengals this weekend, the Ravens have to queue in on Gio Bernard. If you look at his game logs, the Bengals seem to throw the ball his way a lot when facing the Ravens. Other teams have also followed this trend too, with the Steelers feeding DeAngelo Williams the ball six times in the air for 53 yards. Of the Bengals' many weapons, Bernard is the one I'm the most concerned about.