Who would have thought that at this point in the season the premiere match-up of the week would be the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) against the Cincinnati Bengals (6-3)? Both teams are tied for second place in the AFC North, and with the Steelers looking like they are back to their winning ways, this game could have playoff like implications.
Cincinnati has easily been the surprise of the NFL season thus far. With a rookie quarterback under center, a rookie wide receiver as the go-to man, and the loss of future hall of famer Chad Ochocinco, many people wrote the Bengals off before the season even started.
Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has made a strong case that he deserves to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year, and more importantly, he has shown the league that the Bengals are for real. A.J. Green has 635-yards on the season with 6 touchdowns and has easily been Dalton’s favorite target. Green also leads all rookies in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
Two of the Bengals three losses came against teams that are division leaders. Last week, Cincinnati put up a fight against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but lost the game 24-17, as Rashard Mendehall scored from 9-yards out with fewer than 2 minutes remaining. Cincinnati lost 13-8 in week 3 against the 49ers in a game that went down to the final minutes. Cincinnati is a team that is blossoming a lot sooner than people thought, and they are only going to get scarier from here on out.
Baltimore is coming off of an unexpected loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and are looking to get back on track before it is too late. Baltimore has struggled offensively throughout the season and last week against Seattle was no different. Ray Rice was basically a non-factor on the ground as he only ran the ball 5 times. Joe Flacco had 52 pass attempts and was only able to throw 1 touchdown against a mediocre Seattle defense.
Baltimore is undefeated at home this season (4-0) having beat the Steelers, Cardinals, Jets, and Texans. Unfortunately for the Ravens, the Bengals rank amongst the top ten in opposing passing yards per game and opposing rushing yards per game, so if they are trying to get their offense back on track it might not happen this week.
The Ravens coaching staff needs to find a way to get Ray Rice involved as much as possible this week . They have shied away from Rice throughout the season, but hopefully this week during practice they realized that they cannot win games unless Rice is heavily involved. If Rice gets going on the ground early look for the Ravens to come out on top, if Flacco throws more than 40 passes look for the Bengals to get the victory.
MATCH-UP TO WATCH: Andy Dalton vs. Ravens Defense
It will be interesting to see how the young quarterback handles the monstrous Ravens defense. Will the Ravens defense expose Andy Dalton and make him look like a rookie or will Dalton brush off the Ravens defense? This match-up will be very intriguing.