coleryan Posts:12163 Followers:20
On 11/04/2013 04:42 PM in NFL

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: Preview and Pick

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: Preview and Pick

In the past a game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens would be a high profile game with the winner having the edge in the competitive AFC North. Instead the Bengals have the edge and after losing to the Browns, the Ravens seem to be fading fast and could be on the outside looking as far as the playoffs are concerned. If the Ravens have any chance of getting back into the playoff race they need to beat the Bengals in week 10 of the NFL schedule.

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Odds

The opening NFL point spread for this game have the Bengals listed as small (-2.5) point favorites. The public has given up on the Ravens although they were in the SuperBowl a season ago. Over 70 percent of the betting action is on the Bengals in this game, but the line has actually dropped and it can now be found at (-1.5) at several of the top rated sportsbooks. Make sure to check this point spread leading up to kickoff.

If the Ravens want to win they need to run the ball. For the second straight game, Ray Rice was held to 9 rush yards after contact. From the start of 2009 until last Sunday, Rice had never had fewer than 10 yards after contact in a game with at least 10 rushes. On defense they will have to pressure the quarterback. Andy Dalton was 3-for-11 passing when the Dolphins rushed a defensive back, throwing three interceptions and getting sacked for the "walkoff safety." Since 2009, only David Garrard has thrown as many interceptions in those situations (Week 2, 2010 vs Chargers).

Dalton will look to rebound this week and take down the Ravens.

The latest football betting trends for this game reveal that the Ravens have a good chance of rebounding and winning this game. Cincinnati is 1-4 straight up in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Baltimore and they are 1-4-1 against the spread (ATS) in its last 6 games on the road. Baltimore is 20-3 straight up in its last 23 games at home, 2-5-1 ATS in its last 8 games when playing Cincinnati and 15-6-1 ATS in its last 22 games when playing at home against Cincinnati. The total has gone under in 12 of Cincinnati's last 18 games and the total has gone under in 4 of Baltimore's last 6 games when playing at home against Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12163 Followers:20
11/05/2013 01:30 PM

One of the subtle offensive changes the Ravens made out of the bye was the debut of the pistol formation Sunday in Cleveland.

But just because Joe Flacco led the Ravens in rushing, don’t think Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III when you hear “pistol.”

Baltimore’s version – at this point and likely into the foreseeable future – is to help the struggling run attack, not get Flacco scrambling more.

Baltimore used the formation five times. They ran it all five times with running back Ray Rice for a collective five yards.

The Ravens had success with it early on, as they used it on their second offensive play of the game for a gain of five yards behind left guard A.Q. Shipley. They used it again on the second drive for a pickup of four yards.

It got blown up for losses of three and two yards on the next two times in the formation, and finished with a 1-yard gain. The Ravens used the pistol twice on their final drive of the fourth quarter.

“I thought it went pretty well,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “We ran some of our zone schemes out of that. There’s going to be more of that. Obviously there’s a lot of offense you can run out of that formation. It’s something that we’ll try to build on and give defenses something else to defend.”

The pistol formation, in a nutshell, means the quarterback is lined up in the shotgun and the running back is behind him instead of to the side. Flacco would be is five yards back from center and Rice lined up three yards behind Flacco.

The change allows more time for the blocks to set up in front of the running backs, and changes their angles. Starting eight yards back from the line of scrimmage also allows the backs to get up to speed more by the time they hit the line.

Averaging a league-low 2.8 yards per carry, Baltimore is mixing things up. The Ravens could also do other creative things out of the formation going forward, so as to not be predictable.

“I think [the running backs] liked it,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not so much about the head start, but the angles are a little bit different on some of the plays, so that gives them a chance to get a little more in sync with the offensive live.
“You watch the teams that do that all the time, they run the same basic plays out of the pistol that you run with the quarterback out of center, so it gives you the opportunity to do that.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12163 Followers:20
11/05/2013 01:31 PM

By most measures, the Ravens have one of the better defenses in the NFL. They are currently ranked 10th in scoring defense and 10th in yards allowed. They are seventh in the league with 28 sacks. And only the Kansas City Chiefs have defended better in the red zone. So what’s missing? Well, besides the wins?

Takeaways.

The Ravens have an uncharacteristic minus-three turnover differential this season, due in large part to the fact that they have created just 10 turnovers in eight games. They currently rank 24th in the NFL with 1.2 takeaways per game. Four teams are forcing at least twice as many turnovers per game than the Ravens.

We were reminded in the Week 3 win over the Houston Texans how a timely turnover can turn the tide in a game as middle linebacker Daryl Smith’s second-quarter pick-six sparked a 30-9 Ravens blowout. But those kinds of plays have been few and far between this season.

“We should be getting more turnovers, and I know on our defense, guys feel that way, too,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “We’ve had a number of fumbles caused that we just haven’t recovered that have been -- I don’t want to say bad bounces -- but they’ve kind of bounced right in the opponents’ hands [on] special teams and defense.”

The Ravens recovered one fumble in Sunday’s 24-18 loss to the Cleveland Browns and have six recoveries this season. According to teamrankings.com, the Ravens have recovered 47.6 percent of their opponents' fumbles, which ranks 18th in the NFL. So while their fumble luck hasn't been great, they are close to the league average in that regard.

Only three teams have fewer interceptions than the Ravens, who have picked off four passes. Smith leads the team with two interceptions. Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham have one apiece. Their safeties have none.

Ed Reed and Cary Williams, who were tied for the team lead with four interceptions apiece in 2012, are playing elsewhere.

“We haven’t been getting interceptions. We need to get interceptions,” Harbaugh said. “We need to be ballhawks back there, and that starts with being in position and then coming up with the ball. So, it’s not something you chase per se. If you play better across the board, those things should happen for you, and we need to do better with that.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12163 Followers:20
11/05/2013 01:32 PM

The Bengals put defensive tackle Geno Atkins on injured reserve Monday, four days after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

The All-Pro lineman was hurt during the first half of a 22-20 overtime loss at Miami on Thursday night. Atkins led all NFL interior linemen with 12 1/2 sacks last season and led the Bengals with six this season.

Cincinnati tried to replace him by signing defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi, a sixth-round pick of the Raiders last year. The deal was later voided by the NFL because Bilukidi didn't have a work permit from Canada to keep playing in the United States.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12163 Followers:20
11/06/2013 03:09 PM

During a season that ended in a narrow victory in the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens repeatedly found a way to win close games. This year, the magic is gone. The defending champions' last four losses have come by a total of 14 points, a shortcoming that has left them in third place in the AFC North with a 3-5 record.

Baltimore enters Sunday's game against Cincinnati coming off three straight last-minute defeats. Quarterback Joe Flacco says, "We've always played close games like this and we've been able to win them. This year, we haven't. "

The Ravens won eight games by seven points or fewer last year, including playoff victories over Denver and San Francisco. This season, they're 1-4 in games decided by six points or less.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12163 Followers:20
11/06/2013 03:10 PM

For Ravens left offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, being traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars was expected to introduce him to a winning environment.

However, Monroe has yet to actually play in a win since joining the Ravens.

Traded to the Ravens in exchange for fourth-round and fifth-round draft picks after going 2-14 last season with the Jaguars and 0-4 this season in Jacksonville before the trade, Monroe was inactive for the Ravens' win over the Miami Dolphins. He started the past three games for the Ravens -- all losses.

The last time Monroe played in a victory was with the Jaguars during a 24-19 win over the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 25, 2012.

"The situation is familiar territory for me," Monroe said. "We definitely have everything in place to get these wins. The games are coming down to the wire. The approach for me is the same: continue to grind, continue to be the best prepared for these games that I can be, so on Sunday I can put on a performance, and look back, and see I played well, and continue to execute, and be consistent, so we can get this thing rolling."

The Ravens fell short against the Browns as they allowed five sacks, rushed for only 55 yards and committed nine penalties for 80 yards.

"You can't win when you set yourself back with penalties," Monroe said. "You can't win with turnovers. You have to execute consistently. I think once that happens, this thing will turn around."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12163 Followers:20
11/06/2013 03:11 PM

Cincinnati now plays a struggling Ravens team and is facing a game where they can take a chokehold on the AFC North crown. Second-year defensive tackle Brandon Thompson, who has been thrust into a huge role, is taking the right approach and is attempting not to make things too big for himself. Meanwhile, Thompson's line mate Michael Johnson is one of the Bengals players who realizes how big this game is by claiming that the team is playing in "desperation mode" this week and beyond. Kind of an odd proclamation for a team that has a two-game lead in the division and sits at 6-3, but it actually makes some sense.

"We're going to be playing desperate, too," Johnson interjected, his tone changing slightly from his otherwise comparatively mundane responses. "Every game from here on out, in my eyes, is a desperation game," Johnson said. "I'm going to play like that." Because we just lost," Johnson said. "We just lost on a safety in overtime on the road to a team that we should have beat. We've got too much talent on this team to have those lulls like we had. We're going to be back. We're going to bounce back and we're going to be all right."

"Once I watch the film and make my corrections, it's behind me," Johnson said late Monday of any game he loses. "I didn't watch the film until [Monday], so I'm feeling a little better now, knowing where we can be better and knowing where we're going to get better."

Though Cincinnati doesn't play some of the NFL juggernauts that they did through the first nine games, the second half of the season could be even tougher for them. The injuries are piling up and they can smell the postseason. The sad truth is that we have seen similar Bengals squads wilt under similar circumstances.

It's how they respond to the injuries and an ugly loss that will show what this team is truly made of. If they can clean up the mistakes and show that they do indeed have the depth that has been spoken about ad nauseum all year long, confidence will be high that a deep postseason run can be made. Some more good news is that Cincinnati received a lot of help on Sunday with a number of AFC teams losing, including the Steelers and Ravens.

The tough road to the playoffs and a division title resumes on Sunday in Baltimore. They haven't fared well in that city in the Dalton era (0-2) and even though this doesn't appear to be the same strong Ravens team, they too are in desperation mode after three straight losses. The Bengals need to find that fine line between playing in "desperation mode" and playing tight.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12163 Followers:20
11/07/2013 01:52 PM

The Cincinnati Bengals are hoping to bounce back from a strange end to their four-game win streak but they'll have to overcome a rash of injuries, mainly on defense.

The most significant absence for Sunday's visit to the Baltimore Ravens will be All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

Atkins is out for the season after tearing his right ACL in a 22-20 overtime defeat in Miami on Halloween. The Bengals (6-3) lost when the Dolphins' Cameron Wake sacked Andy Dalton for a safety.

Atkins, who had a team-best six sacks and a career-high 12 1/2 in 2012, joins cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles), safety Taylor Mays (shoulder) and defensive end Robert Geathers (elbow) on injured reserve.

Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee, concussion) and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) didn't play last week and both were held out of practice Wednesday. Running back Giovanni Bernard, though, returned to limited practice after hurting his ribs late against Miami and backup middle linebacker Michael Boley was back after missing that loss because of an ailing hamstring.

With Atkins out, second-round draft pick Margus Hunt is expected to play a little more on the inside for the Bengals, who have a two-game lead over second-place Cleveland in the AFC North.

"We can't get hung up on (injuries). I showed our guys the last four or five Super Bowl champions and the amount of people that went on IR. They overcame it," coach Marvin Lewis said. "The best team in the NFL year after year finds a way to overcome all the obstacles that come along the way.

"The playmakers of the team have to step up and win."

That means more production from Dalton, who extended his streak of 300-yard games to four last week, but didn't throw a touchdown and was picked off three times. He had totaled 11 TD passes and two interceptions in his previous three games.

After some extended rest, Lewis' team will try to persevere against Baltimore (3-5) before hosting the Browns.

''Honestly we feel like these next two weeks are the biggest of the season because of where we are in the division," Whitworth said. "We get an opportunity. These games can tilt things one way or the other."

The Ravens have been on the wrong end of several close calls, losing their last three by a combined 11 points.

They cut an 11-point deficit to three early in the fourth quarter last Sunday in Cleveland but allowed the Browns to cap a 15-play drive with a field goal with 14 seconds to play in a 24-18 loss. Last season, Baltimore won eight games by seven points or fewer, including two in the playoffs, en route to the franchise's second Super Bowl title.

"It's the National Football League. Most all the games are going to be close,'' coach John Harbaugh said. "The difference is winning the close games. We've done that in the past. We have to do that again. That's what we have to figure out how to do. "

The Ravens, who haven't lost four in a row since dropping a team-record nine straight in 2007, are averaging 17.0 points in the last three games after scoring 23.4 per contest to start the season. Baltimore is averaging just 61.3 rushing yards during its losing streak and 71.6 this season after producing 118.8 per game in 2012.

The passing game hasn't been much better, as Joe Flacco has already been sacked 25 times - 10 fewer than all of 2012.

Starting strong has been another problem for Baltimore. The Ravens scored their only first-quarter touchdown in the season opener against Denver and have been outscored 92-63 in the first half. They've outscored opponents 71-36 in the fourth quarter.

"Let's come out of the gates. Let's find a way to get a lead," Harbaugh said. "We have not been able to do that.

"Offensively, we've just got to get better. I've got a lot of optimism that we'll do it as a team. But we'd sure like to get it going and build some confidence and see our guys starting to make plays."

Cincinnati snapped a four-game skid in the series with a 23-17 home win Dec. 30 but both teams were resting their starters for much of the game after securing playoff berths.

Cincinnati has lost in each of its last three visits to Baltimore and was blown out 44-13 in its latest one Sept. 10, 2012.

Prior to seeing limited action in last December's meeting, Ray Rice had rushed for two touchdowns in each of his previous three games against the Bengals. Rice has just three touchdowns this year - and none in the last three games - and with 259 rushing yards, he's on pace to end his streak of four straight seasons with at least 1,100.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12163 Followers:20
11/08/2013 02:12 PM

The Bengals come into this meeting ranked fifth overall in total defense, yielding 325.0 yards per game, but suffered a big injury versus the Dolphins when standout defensive tackle Geno Atkins sustained a torn ACL in his right knee that is season ending.

Atkins had six sacks and 20 tackles this season and led all interior lineman with 12 1/2 sacks a season ago. He becomes the eighth player to land on injured reserve this year for the Bengals and all eight of come on the defensive side of the ball, including defensive end Robert Geathers and cornerback Leon Hall.

"It sucks because he's one of the best. He is a big part of our defense," said Bengals nose tackle Domata Peko of Atkins. "He is a hell of a player. You never want to see anybody go down."

Brandon Thompson, a 325-pound second-year player out of Clemson, is set to start in Atkins' place and has 16 tackles with 1 1/2 sacks in nine games this season.

The Ravens will try to exploit the loss of Atkins and possibly get their ground game going. Baltimore is averaging just 71.6 yards per game on the ground, ranking 29th in the NFL, and both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. Rice tops Baltimore with 259 yards on 97 carries, but does rank second on the club with 27 catches.

Not helping is the fact that Flacco has been sacked 25 times and has nine interceptions to 10 touchdown passes.

Harbaugh cited other teams lining up to stop the run as the issue his club has to overcome.

"We've got to get them out of that run defense. That's our job. And to do that, we've got to be good and precise in the pass game," said the Ravens coach. "We've got to open up that coverage a little bit and force them to back off. We did that at times and other times we didn't."

The Ravens' 10th-ranked defense won't be able to game plan too much against Bernard, who leads all rookies with 628 yards from scrimmage, thanks to Bengals wideout A.J. Green, one of top receivers in the game.

Green made 11 catches for 128 yards versus the Dolphins, tying Carl Pickens' 1994 club record with his fourth straight 100-yard receiving game. Green leads the NFL with 862 receiving yards and is third with an average of 95.8 yards per game.

Ravens wideout Torrey Smith ranks fourth in the AFC with an average of 88.4 yards per game.

Dalton will try to bounce back from his performance versus the Dolphins in which he posted a season-low 55.4 passer rating. He had logged a rating of 116.8 over the four-game winning streak and had 11 touchdown passes over his previous three games before Thursday's loss.

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs will try to keep Dalton uncomfortable in the pocket and has a sack in all but one of his eight games this season. He is tied for fifth in the league with nine sacks to go along with 60 tackles.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0
coleryan Posts:12163 Followers:20
11/08/2013 07:06 PM

The Bengals ruled out linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) and defensive tackle Devon Still (elbow). Linebacker Michael Boley (hamstring) is doubtful, while running back Giovani Bernard (ribs) and tight end Jermaine Gresham (groin) are questionable.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs (foot) is probable, but cornerback Corey Graham (calf), safety James Ihedigbo (toe), linebacker Daryl Smith (thigh), cornerback Jimmy Smith (thigh) and wide receiver Brandon Stokley (thigh) are all questionable.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-5-0