Ravens Vs. Bengals

Nfl Week 14

Today, 1 P.m., M&t Bank Stadium, Chs. 13, 9

December 07, 2003|By JAMISON HENSLEY

SCOUTING REPORT

Ravens run offense vs. Bengals run defense -- RAVENS

Jamal Lewis has gained 100 yards in all five of his meetings with Cincinnati, but his toughest game came two months ago. It was all-or-nothing as the Bengals stacked the box, which included using an extra linebacker in place of a safety. Lewis gained 70 yards on three runs and produced 31 yards on his other 16 carries. In its past five games, Cincinnati has allowed the opposition's top running back to average 4.8 yards per carry. Lewis, the league's leading rusher, has cracked 100 yards in just two of his past five outings.

Ravens pass offense vs. Bengals pass defense -- EVEN

The Bengals are banged up in the secondary and are going to be forced to start Artrell Hawkins (probable, knee) or Jeff Burris (doubtful, concussion) at cornerback. There's even a possibility that Burris could start and Hawkins could play the nickel (fifth defensive back). Cincinnati has shown some lapses against the pass, giving up five touchdowns while intercepting just one pass over the past three games. But the Bengals came out on top in the earlier meeting, stopping the Ravens on nine of 11 third-down attempts and forcing two fumbles and an interception by rookie quarterback Kyle Boller. Since Anthony Wright has taken over at quarterback, he has averaged 12.6 yards per completion while revitalizing the Ravens on third downs and in the red zone. Protection is a concern on the right side, where Orlando Brown or Ethan Brooks will take on Duane Clemons, the Bengals' sack leader.

Bengals run offense vs. Ravens run defense -- EVEN

One of the hottest ground games in the NFL, Cincinnati averaged 190.7 yards rushing in November. The two-headed power running attack of Corey Dillon and Rudi Johnson will crash in between the tackles and test the endurance of the Ravens' defensive front. No team has schemed better against Ray Lewis this season than the Bengals. Still, the Ravens held Cincinnati to 2.1 yards a carry and didn't allow a run of more than 11 yards in the October game. In the previous five meetings with Lewis in the middle, the Ravens held Dillon under 57 yards rushing four times.

Bengals pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense -- BENGALS

The Jon Kitna-to-Chad Johnson connection has caused problems for the Ravens. In five meetings, they have teamed up 19 times for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Kitna has been on a tear over his past nine games, with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions. Ranked sixth in pass defense, the Ravens are on a hot streak as well, holding five of their past six opponents under 190 yards passing while racking up 10 interceptions. By starting Chris McAlister and Gary Baxter at cornerback, the Ravens have had a much more physical presence in the secondary.

Special teams -- RAVENS

The field-position battle heavily favors the Ravens. The average starting position for opponents against the Ravens' kickoff coverage team is the 25-yard line, which is tops in the NFL. Conversely, the Bengals' kickoff return team averages the second-worst field position in the league. Cincinnati only nets 31.5 yards on punts, which also ranks second-to-last in the NFL. The kicking game is a stalemate between the Ravens' Matt Stover (28-for-30 on field-goal attempts) and the Bengals' Shayne Graham (17-for-19).

Intangibles -- RAVENS

A cumulative wear-down effect looms as a pivotal factor since the Ravens are playing their third consecutive game at home and Cincinnati has traveled for three straight weeks. The Bengals are coming off an emotional 24-20 win in Pittsburgh, and it could be tough for them to reach that same intensity level away from home for a second game in a row. The Ravens feel they gave away the game in October and like the prospect of striking a blow to the NFL's feel-good story of the season.

Prediction -- RAVENS

The Ravens are in a must-win situation after losing the first meeting, and the Bengals are in a rough predicament with a third consecutive road game. Plus, in a big-time December game with the division on the line, it's hard to take Kitna over Ray Lewis. The Ravens' defense will rule in Marvin Lewis' homecoming. Ravens, 20-9.

GAME FACTS

Records

Bengals 7-5 Ravens 7-5

Line

Ravens by 3 1/2

Vs. spread

Bengals 9-3 Ravens 7-4-1

Series

Ravens lead 10-5 Last meeting

Bengals won, 34-26, on Oct. 19 in Cincinnati.

NFL rankings

Bengals offense: Overall (7), rush (12), pass (10).

Bengals defense: Overall (22t), rush (18), pass (24).

Ravens offense: Overall (22), rush (2), pass (32).

Ravens defense: Overall (4), rush (10), pass (6).

Quick hits

A victory today would give the Bengals their first five-game winning streak since 1988.

Bengals WR Chad Johnson leads the AFC with 16 catches of 20 yards or more and six for 40 or more.

Ravens QB Anthony Wright has six touchdown passes and one interception in his past two starts.

Ravens RB Jamal Lewis has averaged 4.0 yards per carry or better in 12 of his past 14 games.

Injuries

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