Familiarity breeds contempt. Isn’t that a saying?
Regardless, this Bengals vs. Ravens rivalry has ramped up a couple of notches over the past couple of years—particularly with last year’s Wild Card result. But the next big game between these two happens this Thursday night in Baltimore.
To help preview things, we tapped the knowledge of Kyle Barber over at SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown. Here’s our chat:
1.) AC: Over the past couple of decades, the Ravens’ receiving corps has been littered with massive excitement, big plays, and disappointing high picks. Odell Beckham, Jr. was brought in to remedy some of the inconsistencies, and while it was a slow start for him in 2023, things seem to be picking up. Can you talk about OBJ and the rest of the group’s production and outlook for the rest of the year?
KB: Beckham’s numbers aren’t gaudy. Really, none of the Ravens receivers numbers are. But Beckham’s been a factor in games.
Consistently, Beckham has drawn defensive holding and pass interference calls when he’s lined up in single coverage because he still is capable of generating separation. Recently, he showed the juice he has on the 40-yard touchdown against the Cleveland Browns last week and has come on strong.
Unlike national media, local reporters, myself included, knew Beckham’s signing wasn’t to be this outstanding addition to the receiving group. He’s a veteran. He’s still working through an injury that’s hampered him in games. He had only 18 snaps last game. But he can still make a difference.
All the Ravens receivers are capable. Rashod Bateman has been one of the best receivers in terms of beating single coverage this season. But, he hasn’t been getting the ball consistently enough to warrant more attention.
Overall, the Ravens receiving group has been solid and there’s a clear shine on the unit that there wasn’t a season ago. There’s enough depth and there’s enough top-end talent to make plays.
2.) AC: Lamar Jackson was on a bit of a tear this year and of late until he hit a bit of a buzzsaw this past week in the Browns (Joe Burrow and the Bengals can relate there). What were the issues, and how can the Bengals potentially continue to exploit those issues this week?
KB: Pressure. Myles Garrett whupped up on the Ravens offensive line. As did their entire defensive line, collapsing the pocket and making it tough on Jackson, who was not his traditional cool and calm self. He was rattled and had to constantly be on the run. The Bengals have the same opportunity as left tackle Ronnie Stanley went down with injury on Sunday and has been ruled out for Thursday.
Other than that, it was the defense that failed. They allowed 27 points in the 33-31 loss, and it was Deshaun Watson who went 14-14 in the second half.
3.) AC: The Ravens’ defense looks formidable in a number of different facets. With you being at least somewhat familiar with the Bengals, their style of play, and the cast of characters, what would you say is their best plan of attack from Joe Burrow and Co. to get the coveted win this week?
KB: Pressure with their defensive line when rushing four. This unit has been impressive with their pass rush, including interior defensive lineman Justin Madubuike (8.5 sacks), outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney (5.5) and Kyle Van Noy (5.0).
Also, since returning from injury, Oweh’s had three sacks in four games, so if Van Noy is limited due to the reported groin injury, he could make a splash, too.
4.) AC: Be it during the offseason, during the season, right now, or looking ahead, most prognosticators have had the AFC North coming down to the Ravens and the Bengals in 2023. While Baltimore is up on top of the division right now, the Bengals are at the bottom—would you still agree with that assessment, or have this year’s past battles against the Browns and Steelers, respectively, changed your mind?
KB: I still see this as Ravens vs. Bengals for the division. The Browns are now out of it after the news of Watson’s season-ending injury. The Steelers are consistently getting lucky and eventually that will run out.
But the Bengals are a team that will go on some ungodly second-half tear and be right within reach of the Ravens, who will stumble too many times to create separation in this violent division.
5.) AC: DraftKings has the Ravens favored by 3.5 points in this one. It’s always hard to predict what will happen, especially on the injury front, in these short weeks. Personally, I had the Bengals splitting the division this week, but winning this one is a huge task for them for a number of reasons. How do you see this one playing out?
KB: Ravens are at home in primetime. They tend to win these kinds of games and the mood in the locker room all week has been a pissed-off, hungry-to-get-on-to-the-next-one attitude. I bet it’s like that in Cincinnati, too. But, the Ravens are at home and they have the weapons to outpace Cincinnati, and the healthier defense with stars to keep Burrow and Co. contained.
Just hard to bet against Baltimore at home under the lights. I’ll take the Ravens in a win, but I’d take the Bengals +3.5.
Our thanks to Kyle Barber over at Baltimore Beatdown! Go check out the other side of our conversation here.