Scouting report

December 21, 1997|By Mike Preston

Ravens run offense vs. Bengals run defense Edge

The game plan for the Ravens is to run at the Bengals and control the clock. The Bengals have the worst run defense in the league, allowing 144.8 yards rushing a game. Running backs Bam Morris and Jay Graham need to have big days for the Ravens. -- Edge -- RAVENS

Ravens pass offense vs. Bengals pass defense

The Bengals' secondary is hurting. Starting right cornerback Corey Sawyer probably won't play and starting left cornerback Ashley Ambrose is playing with a broken thumb. Even if healthy, the Bengals don't match up well with receivers Michael Jackson, Derrick Alexander and Jermaine Lewis out of the three-receiver set. -- EDGE -- RAVENS

Bengals run offense vs. Ravens run defense

This would be an interesting matchup if the Ravens were healthy, but three of the team's starting front four -- ends Rob Burnett and Michael McCrary and tackle Tony Siragusa -- are playing with injuries. The Bengals' run offense has been rejuvenated in the past couple weeks with running back Corey Dillon, and their line is playing well. -- EDGE -- BENGALS

Bengals pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

There isn't a hotter quarterback in the league than the Bengals' Boomer Esiason. He is the main reason Cincinnati has won three of its past four. The key for the Ravens is to get pressure on Esiason because he doesn't move well. If Esiason has time, he could tear apart the Ravens' young secondary. Watch out, cornerback DeRon Jenkins. -- EDGE -- BENGALS

Special teams

The Ravens have better return and coverage teams overall, and both punters are about the same. Bengals kicker Doug Pelfrey has converted 11 of 15 field-goal attempts; the Ravens' Matt Stover is 26 of 33, but he has missed four straight, the past two having been blocked. -- EDGE -- RAVENS

Key matchup

Bengals guards Rich Braham, Ken Blackman and center Darrick Brilz vs. Ravens defensive tackles Siragusa, James Jones and Larry Webster and middle linebacker Ray Lewis: The Bengals haven't shied away from letting teams know they will run inside. If Siragusa doesn't play or is hindered dramatically by his fractured right hand, this matchup will swing heavily in the Bengals' favor. -- EDGE -- EVEN

Intangibles

The Ravens want to go out with a third straight win, but the Bengals are just as hot. The Ravens have a lot of young players in the lineup who need to gain experience playing on the road. The Bengals have rallied around Esiason and will be hard to beat at home. -- EDGE -- BENGALS

Prediction

The Ravens have too many injuries on the defensive line, but they'll hang tough for a while. Esiason will have a Merry Christmas after this game. Bengals by four. -- EDGE -- BENGALS

Keys to a Ravens victory

1 The Ravens have to pressure Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason and make him move in the pocket.

2 The Ravens have to run the football with Bam Morris and Jay Graham and control the clock.

3 Stay composed. Cincinnati is a tough place to play, and the Ravens have one of the NFL's youngest teams.

Pub Date: 12/21/97

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