Scouting report

Ravens vs. Bengals

November 27, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Ravens run offense vs. Bengals run defense

This is where the Ravens have their best chance of upending the Bengals,who have the NFL's 25th-ranked run defense. For the second time this season, the Ravens will split playing time between running backs Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor. But Taylor, whose ankle is not at full strength, could be limited. Cincinnati held Lewis and Taylor to 58 yards on 18 carries (a 3.2-yard average) three weeks ago. Defensive tackle Bryan Robinson, the Bengals' best lineman against the run, is expected to be sidelined with a foot injury. Shaun Smith, who has been inactive for three of the past four weeks, could replace Robinson and match up against right guard Brian Rimpf, who will make his second career start.

Edge -- Even

Ravens pass offense vs. Bengals pass defense

Kyle Boller has put the Ravens in some bad situations with his erratic decision-making. His interception rate (5.4 percent) is the highest among active starting quarterbacks. Two of his picks have come deep in the opponent's territory. Boller can't take all the blame for the Ravens' inability to stretch the field because receivers Patrick Johnson and Mark Clayton both misplayed deep passes in the end zone last Sunday. The Bengals' Deltha O'Neal and Tory James aren't the best cover cornerbacks but they might be the best ball-hawking ones. O'Neal and James have combined for 10 of the Bengals' league-leading 21 interceptions. Cincinnati hasn't had a consistent pass rush, ranking 30th in the NFL in sacks per pass play. But end Justin Smith could cause problems for right tackle Tony Pashos, who is starting in place of Orlando Brown (back).

Edge -- BENGALS

Bengals run offense vs. Ravens run defense

Without Ray Lewis at middle linebacker, the Ravens have struggled at stopping the run unless they move an eighth defender near the line of scrimmage. That's not an option when facing Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer. Cincinnati running back Rudi Johnson gained 70 yards on 15 carries in the first half against the Ravens on Nov. 6, but he managed only 27 yards on 14 attempts in the second half. In his past three meetings with the Ravens, Johnson has averaged 83.7 yards because the Bengals have become the more physical team up front. Backup Chris Perry, though, is more of a breakaway threat, producing 82 yards on eight carries last Sunday.

Edge -- Bengals

Bengals pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

In his past two starts against the Ravens, Palmer has owned them, throwing for 630 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. The highest-rated passer in the NFL, Palmer has recorded two or more touchdown passes in five of his past six games. Receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh combined for 10 catches for 152 yards earlier this month vs. the Ravens. Ranked fourth in pass defense, the Ravens had one of their most inefficient games of the season against Cincinnati. The Bengals are the only team this year to complete more than 60 percent of their passes and convert more than 60 percent of their third downs against the Ravens.

Edge -- Bengals

Special teams

Ravens kicker Matt Stover has made 20 of his past 21 field-goal attempts, including the game-winning, 44-yarder in overtime last Sunday. He has 11 field goals in the past four games, hitting from beyond 40 yards six times. The Bengals' Shayne Graham has missed three of his past nine field-goal tries. Ravens punt returner B.J. Sams is second in the NFL with an 11.8-yard average. The Bengals' Keiwan Ratliff is 24th in the league with a 4.8-yard average.

Edge -- Ravens

Intangibles

The Ravens have lost their past eight road games by an average of 13.6 points. Plus, the Ravens have yet to prove they can beat a quality starter like Palmer this season (their wins have come against Trent Dilfer and two third-stringers in Brooks Bollinger and Tommy Maddox). After falling short against Indianapolis last Sunday, the Bengals should be steaming today, giving them the emotional edge. In its past five quarters against the Ravens, Cincinnati has outscored them, 45-15.

Edge -- Bengals

Prediction

If the Ravens could find a way to play against Bengals No. 3 quarterback Craig Krenzel at M&T Bank Stadium, then they would have a chance for an upset. But that's not the case. The reality of the situation is that the Ravens can't put up enough points to keep up with a high-powered offense like Cincinnati.

Bengals -- 27-13

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