Ravens rushing vs. Bengals run defense - BENGALS
The Ravens set a team record for fewest rushing attempts in a game (13) last Sunday night. The team will move tailback Terry Allen back into the starting lineup and rotate Moe Williams in passing situations. Over the past six games, the Ravens are averaging only 3.2 yards per carry and holding the ball for 27 of the game's 60 minutes. Cincinnati, which ranks 13th against the run, relies on linebackers Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons to slide off blocks and make the plays.
Ravens passing vs. Bengals pass defense - EVEN
Since Elvis Grbac has returned from a chest injury, the Ravens are 3-0 when he completes better than 53 percent of his passes. When he is under 53 percent, the Ravens are 0-2. In the last meeting with the Bengals, a tipped Grbac pass was picked off in the end zone and another interception was returned 66 yards by Spikes on a poor throw into the flat. Cincinnati is giving up 192 yards passing, ninth-best in the league. Cornerback Mark Roman, who started the past eight games, was lost for the season when he dislocated a finger Wednesday. He likely will be replaced by Robert Bean, a fifth-round pick in 2000.
Bengals rushing vs. Ravens run defense - RAVENS
Last Sunday, the Ravens surrendered 158 yards rushing -- the most given up by their defense in 50 games. The Ravens are still hurting in the middle -- defensive tackles Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa are game-time decisions and would be replaced by Lional Dalton and Larry Webster -- but have had their way with Cincinnati running back Corey Dillon. In his past six games against the Ravens, he has averaged 38 yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry.
Bengals passing vs. Ravens pass defense - RAVENS
The Ravens' secondary has struggled mightily over its past 2 1/2 games, but Cincinnati's passing game has fallen apart. The Bengals are down to two healthy quarterbacks: starter Jon Kitna, who is playing with a sprained ligament in the middle finger of his throwing hand, and backup Scott Covington, who was flown in and re-signed on Thursday to replace the injured Scott Mitchell. No Bengals quarterback has thrown for more than 144 yards over the past four games.
Special teams - RAVENS
The Ravens rank in the top five in five special teams league categories, including the NFL's best punt coverage. Jermaine Lewis is getting close to breaking a return for a touchdown. He leads the AFC in punt returns (14.0) and is second in kickoff returns (24.5). The Bengals are respectable in covering punts but are the worst in the league on kickoffs, allowing 27.4 yards per return.
Intangibles - RAVENS
The Bengals have lost six straight and have been eliminated from the playoffs. Dating to 1990, Cincinnati has lost 36 straight road games against winning teams. Of the Ravens' final three regular-season games, today's is the most critical -- their last game against an AFC team this year -- because conference records will settle playoff tiebreakers. The Ravens still feel the sting from their 21-10 loss in Cincinnati three months ago.
Prediction - RAVENS
The Ravens are scrambling for playoff position while the Bengals are scrambling for a healthy quarterback. But nothing has come easy for the Ravens this season -- not even beating Cincinnati. Ravens, 16-6.
Ravens scout George Kokinis sizes up the Bengals:
Strength:Defensive front seven. The Bengals are ranked 10th overall in defense and have 38 sacks; the league average is 31. Right end Justin Smith needs one more sack to reach several incentives in his contract. He's done as well as a rookie can do, showing speed and a great motor. Linebacker Takeo Spikes is a solid player with no real flaw in his game.
Weakness:Injury factor at quarterback. Backup Scott Mitchell was going to get some snaps in the game, if not start, because of Jon Kitna's finger injury. But Mitchell is out with injured ribs, so Kitna will start. If they put their emergency third quarterback, receiver Peter Warrick, in a shotgun formation, that's not great news for the Ravens. The more touches he gets, the more effective he is.
Matchup to watch: Ravens receiver Travis Taylor (33 catches, 432 yards, two touchdowns) vs. Bengals cornerback Robert Bean (no interceptions, two passes broken up). Bean probably will replace injured starter Mark Roman. Bean played well when he filled in for Artrell Hawkins a few weeks ago. He has decent speed and is a good athlete. Taylor needs to get some catches this week.
WR 87 Qadry Ismail
LT 75 Jonathan Ogden
LG 64 Edwin Mulitalo
C 62 Mike Flynn
RG 66 Bennie Anderson
RT 77 Kipp Vickers
TE 82 Shannon Sharpe
WR 89 Travis Taylor
QB 18 Elvis Grbac
RB 29 Terry Allen
FB 32 Sam Gash
LE 96 Vaughn Booker
LT 99 Oliver Gibson
RT 94 Tony Williams
RE 90 Justin Smith
OLB 98 Canute Curtis
MLB 56 Brian Simmons
OLB 51 Takeo Spikes
CB 27 Artrell Hawkins
CB 23 Robert Bean
SS 33 JoJuan Armour
FS 26 Cory Hall
WR 86 Darnay Scott
LT 73 Richmond Webb
LG 72 Matt O'Dwyer