Much like the Steelers, the Ravens have a roster that looks much different than how Bengals’ fans remember it being. For the better part of this decade, their defense has been the very strength of the team while the offense struggled with Joe Flacco at the helm.
In 2019, it’s the offense lead by Lamar Jackson that has to carry a lackluster unit on the other side of the ball. Times have indeed changed.
Baltimore’s offense going up against Cincinnati’s defense is what will ultimately decide this game, as both defenses rank in the bottom 10 of Football Outsider’s DVOA rankings. Andy Dalton’s unit will have to keep up with Jackson, and our first player to watch is the guy who should be Dalton’s best friend for this game.
Much has been made about A.J. Green’s career of destroying the Ravens, but Boyd, now in his fourth year, isn’t too shabby at that either. In his last three games vs. Baltimore, Boyd has 253 yards, two touchdowns and 15 receptions and is averaging 2.24 yards per route run. For reference, that would rank 15th in the NFL this season.
Last week, the offense came alive thanks to Boyd, and they’ll need him to step up once more with the return of Green potentially happening next week.
Primary matchup: Brandon Carr - Even at age 33, Carr is still performing like a solid starter. In the slot, he held Boyd in check the last time these teams met in 2018, and a repeat performance could cripple the Bengals’ passing offense once more this season.
In the midst of a terrible season for the team as a whole, Jerry of all players went from absolute zero to somewhat hero last week. Filling in for Andre Smith, Jerry held down the left tackle spot and played at a high level against Chandler Jones. Smith will be out this week, and Jerry figures to keep his spot along the offensive line. We probably won’t see Jerry play that well again, but his matchup against Baltimore isn’t as fierce as it was last week.
Primary matchup: Jaylon Ferguson - The Ravens are really missing Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith in their defense. Ferguson has recently been their main edge defender coming off the right side with Tyus Bowser filling in on obvious passing downs. Jerry shouldn’t have too much trouble against these two, but Baltimore does a great job of manufacturing unblocked pressures. Communication between Jerry and left guard Billy Price will be crucial.
Much like the offense is dependent on Boyd, Atkins and the defense have that same parasitic relationship. On a per play basis, Atkins has continued to play at an elite level, the help around him just has not done him any favors. But the defense goes as far as No. 97 does, and he’s got an enticing matchup this week.
Primary matchup: Bradley Bozeman - While Marshal Yanda will be locking it down at right guard, Bozeman, the Ravens’ worst pass blocking lineman, will get a healthy dose of Atkins. If there was a time for Atkins to pop off, it’s now.
Last week gave us confirmation that this defense is still ill equipped to handle quarterbacks who can create plays with their feet. Brown was victimized in space being forced to matchup in man coverage when the Cardinals went empty, and his tasks in coverage aren’t getting any easier this week.
Primary matchup: Mark Andrews - Andrews will be a game-time decision but is likely to play. When he does, it’ll come to Brown and a few others to match their coverage to Andrews’ vertical routes that are the backbone of Baltimore’s passing game. Brown won’t be able to stop Andrews altogether, at best he can takeaway a big play or two.
Credit is given where credit is due. Kirkpatrick played his best game of the young season last week, and after his performances from Weeks 2-4, he needed a game like that. The eighth-year veteran is no stranger to week-to-week inconsistencies, but the secondary is a much better unit when the opposing offense can’t exploit him multiple times a game. William Jackson and Jessie Bates III aren’t playing to the best of their abilities right now, so Kirkpatrick needs to continue picking up the slack.
Primary matchup: Chris Moore (or Marquise Brown) - Like Andrews, Brown is a questionable for this game. Unfortunately for him, he did not practice this week and is likely to be ruled out. If that’s the case, Moore becomes the guy Kirkpatrick needs to worry about getting over top of him.