The Bengals will have a tough game against the Ravens today. They are by far the best team Cincinnati has faced this season, and it will be interesting to see how this young Bengals team stack up.
How have the Ravens looked so far this year, though? We caught up with Baltimore Beatdown’s Kyle Barber to get his perspective on this week’s game.
Patrick Judis: Lamar Jackson is coming off an MVP season. He is still very much a threat, but obviously the biggest blemish was against the Chiefs. What happened to Jackson and the offense in that game, and is there anyway of another NFL team repeating that against Baltimore?
Kyle Barber: Put the Ravens in an early hole and hope Greg Roman panics at a small deficit yet again. The 2020 matchup was yet another bizarro world game where the Ravens coaching staff ignored their run game going for five-plus yards per carry. Many said it was a replica of the Titans game and the offensive play-calling mirrored it. They stopped rushing for no other reason than being down by four points in the first quarter.
PJ: Marlon Humphrey just got paid really well. What are your thoughts on the deal and the future of this defense with him at corner?
KB: Worth every cent. Marlon Humphrey is arguably the best corner in football, especially his man coverage and turnover talents. He’s at three takeaways already with an interception and two forced fumbles, with one being recovered by ILB L.J. Fort, who returned it for a defensive touchdown. Humphrey is arguably the Ravens’ third-best player, behind Justin Tucker and Lamar Jackson. A surefire cornerback sticking with the franchise for another six years is a complete positive in my book.
PJ: Baltimore’s defense has done a great job at keeping teams from scoring. They are only allowing 18.3 points per game. What is the biggest strength and weakness of this unit?
KB: The secondary is among the best in the NFL. Last season Humphrey and Marcus Peters both earned First-Team All-Pro honors. This secondary is still largely intact with Humphrey, Peters, Jimmy Smith and Chuck Clark.
The weakness lies within the middle linebackers and tight end coverage. The move to release Earl Thomas III was the right decision, especially after Texans’ players fought the signing/workout, but you can tell his coverage over the middle where tight ends find their routes has opened back up this season.
While the Ravens’ sport 2020 first-round pick Patrick Queen and third-round selection Malik Harrison, they’re struggling a bit in pass coverage. This is where the Bengals may find some success.
PJ: Jackson gets the most attention on offense, but who is an underrated piece of this offense that doesn’t get another attention?
KB: Bengals fans already know of this underrated player, seeing as he’s been a bit of a menace in their four matchups, but I’m going with Mark Andrews. He doesn’t seem to garner the attention that other big name tight ends across the league receive, and Andrews is off to a hot start this year, scoring four touchdowns in four games.
A real underrated piece to mention is RB Gus Edwards. He’s been the most impressive back for Baltimore. Of the four on the roster, he’s the biggest and the best at hitting the holes and going North. This may be the week he gets more carries and hits the second level more. However, with Geno Atkins returning, this could be very wrong.
PJ: What is your prediction for the game and do you think the Ravens beat the 14-point spread they opened the week on?
KB: I’m confident in the Ravens to cover the 14-point spread. Baltimore’s been working on things and I believe this is the game they put more of their identity together. Atkins’ return could put a halt to the run-game’s proficiency, especially with Ravens’ starting right guard Tyre Phillips (R) sidelined for the game.
What makes me most confident is the defense. I’m a big fan of Burrow and am confident he’s the quarterback to get Cincinnati back on track. I’ve spoken on how cerebral he is and his ability to throw the football is impressive. But rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle against the Ravens and their unique schemes. Don Martindale, the Ravens defensive coordinator, is known to send the blitz and also do so with concepts foreign to younger players.
Burrow’s going to face off against a great secondary and a front four who have been hungry to hit the quarterback. This is the first offensive line they’re likely to open the floodgates against. This, combined with the aforementioned secondary is a recipe for a “Welcome to the NFL,” game for the rookie.
I see this game going 35-17 for the Ravens.
Thanks again to Kyle Barber for taking the time out to answer our questions. If you’d like to see more of his work or Ravens coverage, you should head over to Baltimore Beatdown.