The Ravens have seen first-hand what the after-effects of playing Pittsburgh can be -- twice, Baltimore has beaten the Steelers this year; twice, Baltimore has been upset on the road the week after. Cincinnati took a tough loss against Pittsburgh last Sunday, made worse by an injury to A.J. Green, who's questionable for Week 11. Expect an angry Ravens defense to make life extremely difficult for rookie QB Andy Dalton, especially if Green can't go.
Ravens 23, Bengals 20: Never thought I would say the Ravens, coached by longtime special-teams maven John Harbaugh, would be a total mess in the kicking game, but the special teams cost the Ravens 12 points last week in a five-point loss. Return man David Reed (since dispatched to Siberia) fumbled twice, leading to two Seattle field goals, and the kicker with the longest leg in the league, Billy Cundiff, missed two field goals. He was short on a 50-yarder. Short? Okay, one point about this game: Yes, the Bengals have lost their best corner, Leon Hall, for the year with a torn Achilles. But Joe Flacco still has to prove he can throw against any Cincinnati secondary. Last four games versus Bengals: two touchdowns, nine picks. Bengals coordinator Mike Zimmer must be in his head.
• All four ESPN NFL Sunday Countdown analysts believe the Ravens will rebound from last week's loss.
• Mark Schlereth picks the Bengals to win, but the other seven ESPN NFL "experts" think the Ravens will be victorious.
• ESPN's Madden 12 simulation predicts a 17-13 victory for the Ravens.
Heading into the fourth quarter with a 17-3 lead, you figure the Ravens had this one locked up tight. With that defense, no way the Bengals are coming back, right? But that's why they play every minute as Andy Dalton led his team to 10 straight points, pulling to within four with plenty of time still left on the clock. But that's when the Baltimore D stepped up and played its fiercest ball of the day, picking off Dalton with the clock winding down to secure the 17-13 win. Yowza!
• Mike Florio and Gregg Rosenthal of NBC Sports' ProFootballTalk both expect the Ravens to bounce back with a victory over the Bengals.
Florio's take: If the Bengals were 3-6, they'd have a good chance to beat the Ravens, since the Ravens overlook the bad teams. Since the Bengals are 6-3, the Ravens will be ready to roll into a tie with the Steelers atop the AFC North. Florio's pick: Ravens 21, Bengals 16.
Rosenthal's take: Andy Dalton impressed me more in the loss to Pittsburgh than most of his wins. He made a number of "NFL" throws and mostly made good decisions against the blitz. Dalton will have to be even better against the Ravens, because Cincinnati's secondary is ready to spring a leak without Leon Hall. Rosenthal's pick: Ravens 27, Bengals 21.
• FoxSports.com's Peter Schrager talks about the Ravens' inconsistency.
Remember that girl in high school who seemed to magically turn into a carbon copy of whatever guy she dated? When she was hooking up with the stoner, hippie guy, she was wearing Grateful Dead shirts and hemp necklaces. When she dated the preppy dude, she was decked in Abercrombie and J. Crew. The skater? She had Vans on. That girl. Those are the 2011 Ravens. They play up to the competition when its good, and play down to the competition when its bad. They'll bring their A game and beat the Bengals and Niners the next two weeks. But watch out for those two games against the Browns. The pick: Ravens 31, Bengals 17
• CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco thinks the Bengals will keep it close, but the Ravens will ultimately prevail.
Ravens 21, Bengals 17: Both these teams lost last week, which makes this an even bigger division game. The Ravens have bounced back in a big way after losses, so that doesn't bode well for the Bengals. Both these teams are good on defense, which should make for a low-scoring game. The Ravens win it, but the Bengals keep it close.
• All five CBSSports.com analysts expect the Ravens to win Sunday, but only three think they will cover the 7 1/2-point spread.
Ravens 24, Bengals 21: The Ravens lose to bad teams and beat good ones. That formula will serve them well this week, as there's no overlooking the resurgent Bengals and rookie quarterback Andy Dalton.
• NESN's Michael Hurley notes the Bengals' 6-3 record isn't as good as it looks -- and he expects the Ravens to beat them by more than the seven-point spread.
I was hoping deep down that the oddsmakers wouldn't take too much from Baltimore's pitiful showing last weekend and only make the Ravens a two- or three-point favorite. No dice.
I know for a fact that the Bengals will lose this game. In their six wins, their opponents have a combined record of 19-36; in their three losses, the opponents are 19-9. They're just not nearly as good as that 6-3 record indicates, and a rookie quarterback against an angry Ed Reed and Ray Lewis is a recipe for disaster. I'd be nervous if the Bengals really only lost by seven last week, but if you watched that game, you know it wasn't that close.
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[Compiled by Dean Jones Jr.]Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun