Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
Where: Cincinnati, dummy. Some large stadium there.
When: 8:20 pm, NFL Network. Tonight. Where have you been?
The Ravens and Bengals managed to win their respective games last week and meet with matching 1-0 records. Given the lack of participation from the other teams in the AFC North, this represents an early battle for divisional superiority.
- Establish the running game early. While they were pretty shabby on the ground last week in similar conditions, the Ravens’ offensive line will have to contain the Bengals’ excellent defensive line, which won’t be easy. Expect a fair amount of short play-action passes.
- Use RB Alex Collins more. Collins was less than stellar last week, as he amassed 13 yards on seven carries, with one TD and a lost fumble. Granted, wet conditions – expected tonight – aren’t usually a tonic for a back with occasional fumbling issues, but Collins must pick up the slack in the absence of backup Kenneth Dixon.
- Contain Cincinnati RB Joe Mixon. Mixon was impressive in his season debut, totaling 149 yards from scrimmage; the Ravens’ defensive front will have to account for him at all times. Since Bengals QB Andy Dalton relies heavily on play action passing, rendering Mixon ineffective will be the first step in shutting it down.
- Run Joe Mixon. A lot. The Ravens historically attempt to shut down an opponents’ running game above all else; if Mixon has early success, it could force a lot of defensive confusion and open bigger passing lanes.
- Keep going to WR A.J. Green. Green has absolutely killed the Ravens over his career, collecting 695 receiving yards with six touchdowns in the past seven meetings against them. Why should tonight be any different?
- Pressure Ravens QB Joe Flacco. Flacco’s trademark is not responding well under pressure. When panicked, Flacco makes plenty of mistakes, and the Bengals surely know this. Expect lots of blitzing if the defensive line isn’t getting it done by themselves.
Final: Bengals 26, Ravens 21