The Bengals (3-6-1) face a tough game without A.J. Green and against a surprisingly good Ravens (5-5) team that has a stout defense. It won’t be a pretty game, but the ones against Baltimore rarely are.
On paper Cincinnati’s ofense will have a really bad matchup against the best rushing defense in the NFL. Without Giovani Bernard it will be much harder, as outside some huge runs against the Browns and the Broncos, Jeremy Hill hasn’t been very effective this season.
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens are still led by quarterback, Joe Flacco, but they changed offensive coordinators early on this season, looking for more production from their running game. Sounds like trouble for the Bengals.
Here are five Ravens players you should watch for tomorrow. This is not a list of Baltimore’s best five players.
Timmy Jernigan, defensive lineman:
With J.J. Watt out this season, the Ravens’ defensive end might be the best at the position right now. He is so good against the run that we often forget he is a great pass rusher. The Bengals offensive line has clear weaknesses in their right tackle and center position. Dalton needs time to throw without somebody like Green to draw double coverage and give him an easy target. If the Bengals want to establish any kind of offensive rythm they need to at least contain Jernigan.
Baltimore can team him up with Elvis Dumervil, if he’s good to go, and give Cincinnati a lot of trouble, as Jernigan is able to engage multiple blockers succesfully while leaving gaps for his teammates.
Jerraud Powers, cornerback:
Rookie Tyler Boyd took on a bigger role last week when Green went down, and he figures to be as involved tomorrow against a defense that prides itself on stopping the run. Powers is the veteran corner who usually handles the slot, and Cole Beasley gave him fits last week in the Cowboys’ win over the Ravens.
Boyd is no Beasley. He is bigger and slower, but also has a big advantage in size over Powers. At 5-10 he was a key member of the Cardinals’ secondary for the last few years, and he hasn’t slowed down thus far with Baltimore. But with no receiver able to beat anybody on the boundaries one-on-one, they will have to go after Powers.
Nick Boyle, tight end:
The second-year player has been out with a suspension the first 10 games, but if he plays, he gives the Ravens a blocking tight end they’ve missed all season. Baltimore will try to attack the Bengals’ slow linebacker corps with their running game, and somebody like Boyle figures to have a big role in that.
Boyle was also suspended in his rookie season, so if the Ravens have held on to him they must think he is pretty good. Ben Watson and Maxx Williams are on Injured Reserve and Crockett Gillmore won’t play on Sunday, so the young tight end will be needed.
Former Bengals cornerback Asa Jackson was waived to make room for him.
Steve Smith Sr., wide receiver:
He can be still pretty dominant, and he was fantastic in their Week 3 game of last season going for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 13 catches. Smith can still ball. One-on-one what he lacks in size he has in physicality and smarts, and in zone coverage he’s so experienced that he can find a hole almost every time.
The Bengals play a lot of zone and have to account for Mike Wallace going deep, so Smith could get plenty of chances in the middle. Darqueze Dennard and Josh Shaw will have a chance to prove themselves as the Ravens use Smith all over the field.
Best trash-talker in the NFL, too.
Kenneth Dixon, running back:
Fantasy players have been expecting the rookie back to take on the leading carrier role all year, and he is finally getting more chances. Again, the Bengals haven't excelled at defendomg the run right because their second-level players are slow and susceptible of counter, misdirection and basically every single inside zone run.
Terrence West might still be the starter, but Dixon has a nice matchup and young legs. He has averaged 6.5 yards per run over the past two weeks, but has received just six carries each game. Head Coach John Harbaugh said on Monday that he’d like to see more of Dixon.