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Bengals at Ravens: 4 matchups to watch for

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Protecting Andy Dalton and limiting Lamar Jackson will be the keys to sweeping the Ravens on the road.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Nine weeks after they played their first matchup this season, the Bengals and Ravens are two very different teams since the Bengals beat them 34-23 back in September. Injuries have taken their toll for both squads, and because of that, we’ve seen them struggle to keep their heads afloat through the month of October. We’re in store for a game between two franchises who’re trying to re-establish their identities, and within that, there are key matchups to watch:

WR Tyler Boyd vs. CB Tavon Young

A matchup so good, it had to be listed twice. Boyd did most of his damage in his previous encounter with Baltimore back in Week 2 against Young in the slot, and he figures to have a feisty rematch this go around. This time, Boyd has the attention of the Ravens secondary. And without A.J. Green to draw defenders away from him, Boyd is the single focus of the Ravens defense when Andy Dalton drops back to pass.

As indicated by the Saints game, the Bengals will not use Boyd any differently with Green out of the lineup. Boyd will continue to operate out of the slot, and in doing so against the Ravens, he’ll face Young more times than not. The Ravens are counting on Young to do a much better job of limiting Boyd in man coverage, but Boyd will continue to hurt the Ravens until he doesn’t.

RT Bobby Hart vs. DE Za’Darius Smith

While Hart has been far from perfect for the Bengals at right tackle, he’s done alright compared to expectations leading up to the season. He’s not quite put together a complete game asides from a soft matchup against the Cameron Wake-less Miami Dolphins, but he’s been serviceable, which is more than what the Bengals have had in recent years at the position.

The Ravens failed to sack Dalton in their last meeting, but Smith accounted for one of the four hits their defense got on the Bengals’ quarterback. Smith has been the Ravens’ best pass-rusher this season and has been taking the majority of his snaps from the defense’s left edge of late. The Bengals offensive line kept Dalton clean when he did the most damage against the Ravens, but eventually, Baltimore’s pass rush started to get through late in the game. Hart and the rest need to make sure Dalton doesn’t feel that pressure early on Sunday.

LE Jordan Willis vs. RT Orlando Brown

We’re all hoping for Willis to show some signs of life this season. He’s the Bengals’ answer to losing Carl Lawson on third down, but he still remains Carlos Dunlap’s backup at left defensive end when the Bengals are in their base defense. That means he’ll go up against the mammoth right tackle for the Ravens in Brown.

Back in the spring, Brown’s name was linked to the Bengals in the draft process because of Lewis’ connection with his dad, who he knew personally with their connection to the Ravens. Brown ended up getting drafted by his dad’s former team and has started the last three games at right tackle and has looked okay doing so. Willis will have a tough day getting through Brown in run defense based on how he’s been playing of late.

Bengals force players vs. QB Lamar Jackson

This is pretty broad, but the message is a simple one: keep your eyes on the ball.

When a player like Taysom Hill or even Jeff Driskel comes into the game at quarterback, the vast majority of read option plays involving them have the quarterback keep the ball. Cincinnati’s defeat to New Orleans proved that to be true. Yet, the Bengals always seem to end up dumbfounded whenever they’re faced with a quarterback who possesses the speed to threaten the edge.

Jackson will be the fastest quarterback Marvin Lewis has ever coordinated against, and every single Bengals defender who is tasked with containing Jackson will be on alert the entire game. The Ravens have yet to display they have the slightest clue on how to use Jackson, but perhaps with him starting, he’ll naturally have more success. The Bengals will just have to read and react in order to stop him.