The Cincinnati Bengals enter a huge game this Sunday night, where they host their division rivals in the Baltimore Ravens for a Wild Card showdown. There are high levels of emotion entering this one, with both teams missing a couple of high-profile players.
To get the pulse of things from the Ravens’ side of things, we tap the knowledge of Kyle Barber over at SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown. Here’s our third go-round of the year:
1.) AC: I always find it a tenuous situation for divisional teams having to play each other three times in a season—especially if one of the teams had swept the regular season games. While that’s not the case here, this seems to be a tricky matchup for both teams because of the familiarity between them—regardless of who’s under center for the Ravens. Just wanted to get your thoughts from a Ravens perspective on playing the Bengals for a third time this year? Might it be an unheralded advantage for Baltimore in this one, or do you think it teeters more towards being an advantage for the Bengals?
I don’t think there’s a significant advantage, but if there’s a slight, it’s to the Ravens. Before burning me at the stake for being a homer, I think part of it is due to the Ravens resting their starters last week and getting actual film from the Bengals stars.
Looking back, I don’t think their first meeting has much bearing. Both the Bengals and Ravens are nowhere near the same clubs.
The Bengals got their stuff together and started mauling teams. The Ravens... well, their quarterback situation is different, and they’re playing with a modified identity. But, I think the Ravens are just able to have the edge due to last week featuring the Bengals stars while they rested their big-name talents.
2.) AC: Speaking of quarterbacks, it looks like Lamar Jackson will be out for this one, if we’re going by his recent tweet. That being said, is there any thought crossing the minds of Ravens Flock that Anthony Brown might be a better option for Baltimore, given last week’s showcasing of his ability to push the ball downfield a bit? I ask also because Tyler Huntley is dealing with throwing shoulder tendonitis...
KB: A fair amount of fans are requesting Brown to be the starter on Sunday. As you said, he was pushing the ball downfield more and after the early turnovers, he really settled in and chopped it up at times. Huntley has resumed throwing in practice and is on schedule, but it’s unknown who the starter will be. The Ravens love to keep things close to the vest.
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3.) AC: Regardless of who is playing quarterback this week for Baltimore, might we see the passes overwhelmingly go to the tight ends again, or can guys like Sammy Watkins open things up enough to keep the Bengals’ defense honest? Isaiah Likely is becoming a nice weapon and Charlie Kolar had a few nice grabs last week...
KB: I would expect the offense to flow through the running game and tight ends, with some shots to wideouts intermittently. The Ravens certainly need to have things flow through Mark Andrews and Likely in the passing game. All four tight ends, with Kolar and Josh Oliver, will be utilized in some form, I’d suspect. But this passing attack struggles and the wide receivers have not made the plays when called on, and quarterbacks have struggled targeting them with their own issues.
4.) AC: Last week, rookie first-round pick Kyle Hamilton was seen in the slot and blitzing a bit more (usually from that role), rather than playing a deep safety role. Marcus Peters didn’t play last week, but should be back in this one, so what is the plan for Hamilton this week on defense? Will we see the Ravens use blitzes often, or will they attempt to generate pressure without extra guys, as the Bengals have a banged-up offensive line (particularly on the right side).
KB: Hamilton has been heavily utilized in the slot this season. He’s become a critical cog at the spot, rather than playing him at safety.
The Ravens are incorporating a lot of three-safety looks with Hamilton in the slot and having both Marcus Williams and Chuck Clark on the back end. Hamilton’s versatility is what really allows for them to be more physical against the run and also match up against tight ends and some wideouts at times.
I think he’ll be a factor in their blitz packages as he’s been throughout the season, notching two sacks and five quarterback hits this season.
5.) AC : On DraftKings Sportsbook, the line opened at about Bengals -5.5, but has shot up to the -9/-10-point range because of the doubt on Lamar Jackson playing. While the Bengals beat the Ravens by 11 last week, a lot of Baltimore starters were out. There is that familiarity aspect I spoke of earlier, so I’m curious about your thoughts on the line here and what your prediction is on the outcome?
KB: I find it hard to envision the Bengals absolutely clobbering Baltimore, but I won’t say it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Just, with the talent on the Ravens’ defense, even against an offense of this caliber, I see it being closer than a nine-point swing.
I’d go Bengals -5.5, like they originally intended. But, this Ravens team needs to score more than a single touchdown in a game, and they haven’t figured out how to do that since Week 12.