Ravens vs. Bengals

November 05, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Ravens run offense vs. Bengals run defense

Jamal Lewis has averaged 123.3 yards in nine meetings against the Bengals. In four games against Cincinnati at M&T Bank Stadium, he has scored six touchdowns. Lewis, who had averaged 16 carries a game this season, received 31 attempts last Sunday and recorded his first 100-yard game of the season. The Bengals have the 25th-ranked run defense, due largely to the season-long suspension of middle linebacker Odell Thurman. With his replacement Brian Simmons (neck) still doubtful after missing three games, Cincinnati might have to continue to go with rookie Ahmad Brooks.

Edge: Ravens

Ravens pass offense vs. Bengals pass defense

In 12 career starts against the Bengals, quarterback Steve McNair is 9-3 with 19 touchdown passes and five interceptions. But McNair had struggled with his consistency all season before posting a 121.5 passer rating last Sunday, his best since his co-NFL Most Valuable Player season in 2003. The Bengals had trouble last Sunday against Atlanta tight end Alge Crumpler and could have similar difficulty with Todd Heap, who has scored five touchdowns in his past six games. The Ravens could attack Bengals right cornerback Tory James, who got beat for a 26-yard touchdown last week and eventually was replaced by rookie Johnathan Joseph. Cincinnati thrives on forcing turnovers, making nine interceptions this season (tied for fifth in the NFL).

Edge: Even

Bengals run offense vs. Ravens run defense

With some Bengals players questioning the play-calling, Cincinnati could be more committed to the run than at any other point this season. It has been a down season so far for running back Rudi Johnson, who has been held to 65 yards or fewer in four of his past five games. In his last meeting with the Ravens, Johnson gained 114 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns. The Ravens have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 11 straight games. Led by linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott, the Ravens are the only defense allowing less than 3 yards a carry. The Ravens catch a break with the underrated Bengals offensive line missing two starters (center Rich Braham and left tackle Levi Jones).

Edge: Even

Bengals pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

Carson Palmer has not thrown an interception in four games, a streak of 153 passes. The Ravens lead the NFL with 15 interceptions. But the Ravens have seemingly allowed the most big plays this season, too. It'll be a challenge for the Ravens to contain a talented Bengals receiving corps. Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry have combined for nine touchdowns this season. Two rookies in the Ravens' secondary - safety Dawan Landry and nickel back Ronnie Prude - returned interceptions for touchdowns last Sunday and need to play soundly if Cincinnati decides to spread the Ravens out. This is the time for safety Ed Reed to step up and make a big play.

Edge: Bengals

Special teams

Both kickers (the Ravens' Matt Stover and the Bengals' Shayne Graham), are accurate and the punters (Sam Koch and Kyle Larson) can pin teams by placing kicks inside the 20-yard line. With Antonio Chatman (hernia) out for the season, Cincinnati has had to go with punt returner Keiwan Ratliff and a new kickoff returner (Chris Perry). Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams, who has yet to hit his stride this season, is facing Bengals coverage teams that both rank in the top three in the NFL.

Edge: Even

Intangibles

The Ravens haven't beaten Cincinnati at M&T Bank Stadium since 2003, something they desperately want to change. This is the right time to catch the Bengals, who have lost three of their past four games and have players questioning the direction of the offense. The Ravens, meanwhile, have found an emotional resurgence since coach Brian Billick took over the play-calling.

Edge: Ravens

Prediction

If the Ravens can't beat a Bengals team that is banged up and distraught, they might never do it this season. The Bengals' deep passing attack will cause problems, but the Ravens' best defense will be the running of Lewis and the efficient passing of McNair. By controlling the clock, the Ravens can end up controlling the division.

Ravens, 27-17

Today, 1 p.m. -- M&T Bank Stadium-- Ch. 13 -- 1090 AM, 97.9 FM -- Line: Ravens by 3

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