Ravens (3-7) at Bengals (7-3)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
RB Jamal Lewis: Diminishing returns have earned Lewis a reduced role - now he gets to do his little dance on the sideline. Fantasy owners would be wise to follow the Ravens lead on this one. Lewis could get 10-12 carries this week, but he'll have a negligible impact. Heading into a Week 9 matchup with Cincinnati, Lewis had run for more than 100 yards in each of his past seven meetings with the Bengals and scored seven TDs in those games. Cincy held him to 49 yards on 15 carries, another forgettable stat line in a season Lewis would like to forget altogether. Rating: 2 out of 5.
RB Chester Taylor: Fans and fantasy owners get their wish - a chance to see what the shifty backfield backup can do given a chance to be the man. Last week's effort gave a pretty good indication - Taylor was electric in the first half, darting and diving his way to 46 yards before halftime. But he slowed down after the break - blame fatigue or a faltering offensive line - and finished with 59 yards on 19 carries. Taylor gives the Ravens a true receiving threat out of the backfield (his 30 receptions rank third on the team), and he could approach 100 yards against the Bengals' No. 25-ranked run defense. But questions remain about his durability, he's battling an ankle injury and the Ravens could turn to the more physical Lewis if they get near the goal line. Keep those expectations in check for now. Rating: 3 out of 5.
QB Kyle Boller: If Boller can avoid tripping over his own feet in the backfield, that would be progress. Projecting Boller's line is as easy as 1-2-3 - 1 TD, 2 interceptions, 3 inexplicable stumbles. Rating: 1 out of 5.
WR Derrick Mason: Of the 21 receivers with 45 or more receptions this season, Mason is the only one without more than one TD. That has to change soon. Doesn't it? Rating: 2 out of 5.
WR Mark Clayton: Signs of life from the rookie as the Ravens try to get him involved with some deep passes. He had seven balls thrown his way last week - but since Boller was throwing them, he finished with four catches for 43 yards. Rating: 1 out of 5.
WR Randy Hymes: Firmly established as the No. 3 receiver, Hymes is a nice, big target in the red zone. But he doesn't have more than two catches in any game this season. Stay away. Rating: 0 out of 5.
TE Todd Heap: Heap hasn't reached the end zone since Week 6 and has gone over 40 yards just once in the past four games. The passes directed at Taylor, Clayton and Hymes are coming at the expense of Heap, who was held to a season-low 28 yards vs. the Bengals earlier this season. Heap hasn't gone six games without a TD since his rookie season in 2001. Rating: 2 out of 5.
PK Matt Stover: Stover kicked three field goals the last time these two teams met. What's changed? Well, Boller's back. Pencil him in for two this week. Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ravens defense: Last week's showing was an encouraging one for the Ravens - six sacks, two turnovers forced, lots of energy and good vibes. The catch? It came against Tommy Maddox, meaning the Ravens have now won games in which they've faced Maddox, Brooks Bollinger and Trent Dilfer. Those guys are Double-A compared to Carson Palmer, who remains the top-scoring QB in fantasy football and beats up on the Ravens like it's his job. Which, of course, it is.
Palmer earned his Bengals' stripes against the Ravens last season by throwing for 382 yards and three fourth-quarter scores as Cincy rallied for a stunning 27-26 victory in Crabtown - or is it 'The Greatest City in the Universe'? A few weeks ago, he threw two TD passes and generally had his way against the Ravens. Receiver Chad Johnson has never had much trouble against Baltimore, either – in nine career games, he's caught 44 passes for about 80 yards per game and five TDs. Ditto for T.J. Houshmandzadeh, whose due for a touchdown.
But the Bengals' game plan in Week 9 included a heavy dose of running back Rudi Johnson, who ran the ball with surprising effectiveness against the Ray Lewis-less Ravens to the tune of 97 yards on 29 attempts. Johnson hasn't gone over 100 yards since Week 1, but he does have three TDs in his past two games, including one against the Ravens. His understudy, Chris Perry, could also play a prominent role after gaining 82 yards on eight carries against the Colts last week. Rating: 3 out of 5.
Week 9 box score: Bengals 21, Ravens 9
Ravens: OUT: LB Ray Lewis (thigh); S Ed Reed (ankle); G Keydrick Vincent (thigh). QUESTIONABLE: T Orlando Brown (back); CB Dale Carter (knee); CB Chris McAlister (thigh); G Brian Rimpf (thigh); CB Samari Rolle (concussion); RB Musa Smith (calf); RB Chester Taylor (ankle). PROBABLE: QB Kyle Boller (back); G Edwin Mulitalo (thigh).
Bengals: QUESTIONABLE: CB Rashad Bauman (knee); S Reggie Myles (ribs); DT Bryan Robinson (foot). PROBABLE: T Willie Anderson (knee); RB Rudi Johnson (knee); T Levi Jones (knee); G Bobbie Williams (ribs).