The Ravens visit the Bengals to kick off Week 2 of the NFL season. Two teams in the AFC North trying to get back into playoff form. Remember it was the Bengals who ruined the Ravens’ playoff chances to end 2017.
This game will most likely be a defensive battle. The Bengals had success last week on offense with Joe Mixon in the running game and A.J. Green on some big plays downfield. There were a few issues, however, especially on the right side of the offensive line, where tackle Bobby Hart and guard Alex Redmond struggled against the Indianapolis pass rush. Rookie Center Billy Price also had his bad moments and allowed an easy pressure on the Bengals’ first possession that led directly to an Andy Dalton interception.
Cincy did find some success running behind the left side of the line, anchored by newly-acquired left tackle, Cordy Glenn. Baltimore will pose a tougher challenge on the defensive side of the ball than Indianapolis did, however.
The easiest thing to do for a football analyst this week was to take shots at Nathan Peterman. And plenty of armchair quarterbacks in the media certainly did in rather off-putting and disrespectful ways. We get it. The guy is not a good NFL quarterback. All we’ll say about Peterman is that given his shortcomings, and the non-existence of the Bills offensive line, it was tough to gauge just how good this Ravens defense actually is.
We know running left against the Ravens won’t be easy with future Hall-of-Famer Terrell Suggs consistently setting the edge and making plays. The middle of Baltimore’s defensive line will also be a tough challenge for rookie center Billy Price. So too will the Ravens’ blitz packages. Bobby Hart will also have his hands full on the right side with improving young pass rusher Matt Judon.
The Bengals will have to generate big plays out of the screen game, both to neutralize Baltimore’s pass rush and to give them time to take some deep shots. If the combination of the offensive line and Cincy’s scheme can’t create time for Dalton, Bengals receivers won’t have time to work downfield.
Given that Andy Dalton is not a guy who is going to march his team up and down the field with consistent precision passes, he will need strong protection and consistency from the weapons around him. We will see if the Bengals can manufacture chunk plays down the field on Thursday.
On the other side of the ball, we don’t think Baltimore will put up a ton of points, even though their offense was impressive in Week 1. Cincy has three solid cover corners in Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson III, and slot corner Darqueze Dennard that should make it a little more difficult for the Ravens’ passing game to operate this week.
Baltimore should be able to have success if they follow some of the Colts’ blueprint from Week 1, though. That means attacking Bengals linebackers in coverage. They can do this using crossing routs with their new trio of wide receivers (Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead) and tight end Nick Boyle. Baltimore would also be wise to specifically challenge linebackers Preston Brown and Nick Virgil with running backs Alex Collins and especially Javorius Allen out of the backfield.
The good thing for Ravens fans is that Baltimore’s offense was more creative with routes and formations in Week 1 than they had been in recent years. Is this a new Marty Mornhinweg? We’ll soon find out.
This should be a close game. But if the Bengals can’t find a way to generate some big plays, Baltimore has a few more advantages across the board that should carry the day. Another interesting matchup to kick off the NFL week.