Ravens run offense vs. Bengals run defense
Jamal Lewis has run harder the past two weeks than at any other point of the season, producing 157 yards and four touchdowns. This is like a home game for Lewis, who has gained 100 yards in all five trips to Paul Brown Stadium. Lewis also has scored six touchdowns in his past five meetings with Cincinnati. The Bengals, who are ranked 19th against the run, have been pleasantly surprised with the play of undersized Caleb Miller, the team's third starting middle linebacker this season. Cincinnati, though, likely will be without defensive tackle John Thornton (knee), who will be replaced by rookie Domata Peko.
Ravens pass offense vs. Bengals pass defense
The Bengals have the NFL's worst pass defense, giving up an average of 245.1 yards. Cincinnati, however, is coming off one of its best efforts of the season, intercepting Cleveland Browns quarterback Charlie Frye four times Sunday and sacking him four times. Since coach Brian Billick took over the play-calling five games ago, quarterback Steve McNair has averaged 230.6 yards passing and has passed for six touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception in four of his past five games, an important trend to continue against Cincinnati (which ranks third in the NFL with 16 interceptions). Tight end Todd Heap leads the Ravens in receptions (51) and touchdowns (six). In 11 games, Cincinnati has allowed seven touchdowns to tight ends.
Bengals run offense vs. Ravens run defense
Cincinnati is 16-0 when Rudi Johnson has 25 or more carries, including 5-0 this season. Johnson, however, has mostly struggled against the Ravens, averaging 52 yards in nine meetings. He has three 100-yard games this season but only one in his past five games. The Ravens have the No. 2 run defense in the NFL, giving up 76.5 yards rushing per game. They haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season with linebacker Ray Lewis in the lineup. The Bengals could be without three starting linemen: left tackle Levi Jones (out, knee), right guard Bobbie Williams (out, appendix) and center Rich Braham (questionable, knee).
Bengals pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense
The Ravens limited quarterback Carson Palmer to 12-for-26 passing for 195 yards Nov. 5. Since that meeting, Palmer has thrown three touchdown passes in each of the past three games and has averaged 330 yards passing. His favorite target has been Chad Johnson, who has totaled 24 catches for 573 yards and five touchdowns in his past three games. Johnson could line up a majority of the time against cornerback Samari Rolle, who has steadily improved after struggling for most of the season. The Ravens tied a team record with nine sacks Sunday, but they have to be selective with their pressure because Palmer can take advantage of single coverage on his receivers. The Ravens' biggest weakness is deep passes, 27 of which have gone for more than 25 yards against them. But they have allowed only two passes of more than 25 yards the past two games.
In the teams' most recent meeting, the Ravens forced a fumble on the opening kickoff. Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams seems to be getting close to breaking a runback for a touchdown. The Bengals, however, are one of two teams in the NFL whose punt and kickoff coverage teams both rank in the top six. Ravens kicker Matt Stover has more field goals against Cincinnati (61) than any other team. Bengals kicker Shayne Graham has more range than Stover, hitting four field goals from at least 45 yards.
The Ravens can clinch the AFC North with a win, but there's no real sense of urgency because it would take a meltdown for the Ravens not to capture the division. If the Bengals want to make the playoffs, they need to take care of business at home with games at Indianapolis and Denver looming. Cincinnati has turned around its season the past two weeks, winning at New Orleans and Cleveland by a combined score of 61-16. The Ravens are 4-1 on the road this season, but they haven't looked particularly sharp at Cleveland, Denver and Tennessee.
Big plays haven't been a problem lately for the Ravens, but that was against the Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers, not Cincinnati. The Ravens will clinch the AFC North ... but not tonight.
Vs. spread -- Bengals 5-5-1; Ravens 7-4
Series -- Ravens lead 13-8
Last meeting -- Ravens won, 26-20, Nov. 5 at M&T; Bank Stadium
Ravens offense -- Overall (25th), rush (22nd), pass (17th)
Ravens defense -- Overall (2nd), rush (2nd), pass (9th)
Bengals offense -- Overall (8th), rush (20th), pass (5th)
Bengals defense -- Overall (31st), rush (19th), pass (32nd)
Out -- DT Justin Bannan (toe); LB Dan Cody (knee).
Questionable -- TE Todd Heap (back); RB Jamal Lewis (foot); LB Adalius Thomas (ankle); G Keydrick Vincent (hip); TE Daniel Wilcox (thigh).
Out -- T Levi Jones (knee); G Bobbie Williams (appendix).
Doubtful -- DT John Thornton (knee).
Questionable -- C Rich Braham (knee); CB Deltha O'Neal (shoulder); TE Tony Stewart (hip); WR Kelley Washington (hamstring).
Probable -- DT Sam Adams (knee); LB Brian Simmons (neck).
Tonight, 8 -- Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati -- Ch. 2, NFL Network -- 1090 AM, 97.9 FM -- Line: Bengals by 3