Scouting Report

Ravens vs. Bengals

November 06, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Ravens run offense vs. Bengals run defense

Jamal Lewis ranks 28th in the NFL with 55.3 yards rushing a game, but he showed signs Monday night of breaking out of his season-long rut. He returned to his physical style of running for the first time this year, which is something the Bengals did not want to see. Lewis has averaged 135.4 yards rushing in seven meetings with Cincinnati, gaining at least 100 yards each time. The biggest mismatch is on the left side, where Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, coming off his best game of the season, has too much size for first-year starter Robert Geathers. Rookie middle linebacker Odell Thurman is the leading tackler for Cincinnati, which has allowed three running backs to crack 100 yards in the past six games.

Edge -- Ravens

Ravens pass offense vs. Bengals pass defense

Cincinnati has held four of its past six opponents under 175 yards passing. Its biggest strength is mixing up coverages, which has been key to creating turnovers. The Bengals lead the NFL with 20 interceptions, and they picked off Green Bay's Brett Favre five times last Sunday. Cornerback Deltha O'Neal has six interceptions, which is two more than the entire Ravens team. Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright has been more decisive on his deep passes, but he has thrown nine interceptions (fourth most in the NFL). Receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap have caught a pass for at least 20 yards in each of the past five games. Receiver Mark Clayton, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, is expected to start.

Edge -- Bengals

Bengals run offense vs. Ravens run defense

The Ravens are giving up an average of 4.5 yards on first down, the best in the AFC. Linebackers Tommy Polley and Bart Scott have stepped up their games, making the loss of Ray Lewis (hamstring) a nonfactor. The Ravens limited the Steelers to 3.6 yards a carry on Monday night. Cincinnati running back Rudi Johnson is 11th in the NFL with 85.1 yards a game. He has not surpassed 80 yards in his past four games. Last season against the Ravens, Johnson gained 98 yards in a loss and 56 yards in a win. Only two running backs have reached 100 yards against the Ravens in the past 12 games.

Edge -- Ravens

Bengals pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

Carson Palmer leads the NFL in touchdown passes (16), yards (2,037), completions (186) and completion percentage (69.7). Receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh have consistently had big days against the Ravens. In their last meeting, Johnson and Houshmandzadeh both had career games, combining for 20 catches and 332 yards. The Ravens rank second in pass defense, holding their past six opposing quarterbacks to under 200 yards passing. But they have flinched at critical moments the past two games, giving up three touchdown passes and making one interception. The biggest challenge is when nickel back Deion Sanders lines up against Houshmandzadeh, who is the slot receiver in the Bengals' three-wide formations.

Edge -- Bengals

Special teams

Ravens punt returner B.J. Sams is third in the NFL with an 11.6-yard average. The Bengals' Keiwan Ratliff has struggled in his second season, averaging 4.9 yards and failing to break one longer than 13 yards. Where the Ravens have given away field position is on kickoffs. The average starting position off kickoffs against the Ravens has been the 28-yard line, which is 23rd in the league. Cincinnati's kickoff coverage unit has forced teams to start inside the 20 an NFL-high 11 times. Bengals kicker Shayne Graham has six tackles on special teams.

Edge -- Even

Intangibles

The Ravens have not lost consecutive meetings with the Bengals since 1996 and are determined to wipe away memories of last season's fourth-quarter collapse against them. Despite leading the division, the Bengals have not been impressive in splitting their past four games. In fact, their six victories have come against teams (Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago, Houston, Tennessee and Green Bay) that are a combined 12-31. Cincinnati is 1-6 at M&T Bank Stadium, getting shut out three times. The Ravens have won seven of their past nine games at home, and Wright is 6-0 in home regular-season games.

Edge -- Ravens

Prediction

The Ravens showed more intensity and focus than they have all season in Monday night's loss to Pittsburgh. There will be no letdown against the Bengals, and this time, they'll pull off the upset. By keeping the ball in the hands of Jamal Lewis, they'll keep it away from Palmer.

Ravens -- 23-20

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