The Bengals grabbed a much-needed Week 1 win and are set to host a division rival on ‘Thursday Night Football’. Baltimore looked very impressive in their opening domination of Buffalo, so Cincinnati will need to be very sharp in many aspects on a short week.
Here are this week’s five keys to a Bengals victory:
Properly defend creative packages—including Lamar Jackson:
It’s no secret that the Ravens like their first round quarterback. He had a strong preseason, making Baltimore figure out ways to use both Joe Flacco and the rookie. Talk about getting creative!
Given the Bengals’ struggles with mobile quarterbacks in recent years (Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Deshaun Watson), they’ll need to be prepped for Jackson’s versatility and the chance that both quarterbacks see the field — even on the same play.
Pressure Joe Flacco with multiple defensive linemen:
Last week, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap helped to carry the team on their massive shoulders, getting two sacks between them. Unfortunately, the other talented pass-rushers behind them on the depth chart didn’t do much else to aid that cause.
This week, the Bengals will need to pressure Flacco from everywhere on the line. Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis will need to produce further on their snaps. Also, Michael Johnson from the interior on passing downs might work as it did last year.
Cover the tight ends and don’t die from the dink-and-dunk:
Andrew Luck nearly pulled off the win against the Bengals last week using a lot of underneath and yards-after-the-catch routes. In fact, even on the play that Clayton Fejedelem made to ice the win, tight end Jack Doyle was in the process of converting a third-and-15 on a potential game-winning drive.
Flacco can be notorious for this type of football. Yes, he has the big arm and likes to throw the deep one, but the Ravens will look to control the clock and the game with short and intermediate routes, which the Bengals struggled with last week.
A big game from Randy Bullock:
The Baltimore Ravens employ one of the game’s best place kickers in Justin Tucker. If the Bengals are somehow able to keep Flacco and his new weapons at bay, Tucker will be a huge factor in this game.
However, so will Bullock. He had a solid season in 2017, prompting the team to hand him the job again this year. He was perfect on Sunday, giving the team 11 total points, and in a big game with Cincinnati’s prime time woes well-documented, team can’t afford to have missed kicks.
Figure out the right side of the offensive line:
For now, it appears that the Bengals are sitting pat with Alex Redmond at guard and Bobby Hart at right tackle. Both players did some decent things in the run game last week, but both also struggled in pass protection.
We’re not advocating for an early season overhaul of the line, as they already have four new starters up front from last year, but Baltimore’s pass-rush will be more furious than that of the Colts. If Hart and/or Redmond can’t get it done, Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi, Christian Westerman and Trey Hopkins could be called upon.
Either don’t be hesitant to make a potential necessary change, or make sure to devise plays to work more towards the respective strengths of Hart and Redmond.