Carroll County Times

Three questions facing Ravens heading into matchup with Bengals

Do the Ravens have any chance of making the playoffs?
They're a long shot to make the playoffs at this point. First of all, they are going to have a difficult time beating a talented Cincinnati Bengals team that still has a lot to play for as far as playoff positioning. Secondly, the Ravens would need either the Miami Dolphins or San Diego Chargers to lose even if they win, and the Dolphins and Chargers are significant favorites in each of their games. The Dolphins are at home against the 7-8 New York Jets. Meanwhile, the Chargers are at home vs. a Kansas City Chiefs team that is likely going to be resting the majority of its starters. Baltimore could get in even if it loses, but that would take Miami, San Diego and the Pittsburgh Steelers all losing. So, the Ravens likely need a win and for either the Jets or Chiefs can pull an upset. Those two things happening are unlikely, but crazier things have happened.

Will the Ravens' passing game be better than it was last week?
The Ravens will likely need it to be. Their running game has been awful this year, and Cincinnati is sixth-best in the NFL against the run. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco is still dealing with the sprained MCL in his left knee, but Flacco said earlier in the week that the knee is feeling a lot better. This will be a tough matchup, though. The Bengals lost top cornerback Leon Hall to a season-ending injury earlier in the year. They have also been without starting cornerback Terence Newman since earlier this month. But Adam Jones and former first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick have filled in well at cornerback. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel was just 13 of 27 for only 114 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions against Cincinnati last week, and the Bengals held Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to 191 yards and one touchdown the week before.


Can the defense slow down the Bengals' passing game?
The Ravens did well against Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and Cincinnati's passing game in November, but Dalton has been a different quarterback at home and has played really well the last three games. Dalton had just 13 touchdowns to go along with 11 interceptions in the Bengals' eight road games, but he has 18 touchdowns and just five interceptions in seven home games. Baltimore will also be challenged to slow down Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, even though it has been successful in limiting him before. Cincinnati also has two talented second-year wide receivers, Marvin Jones and Mohamad Sanu. It also has two good tight ends, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, although both Gresham and Eifert are injured and may not play today. The Ravens' secondary has played well recently, but this will be another test for it.