Key matchup

Bengals’ short-passing offense versus Ravens’ short-passing defense: The Bengals have a new coach and offensive coordinator, but quarterback Andy Dalton’s strengths remain the same. Dalton is a rhythm quarterback and he loves to throw short timing patterns. The Bengals like to run a lot of run-pass option plays with Dalton. If he gets hot, he can beat any team. But if he is contained, the Bengals will probably lose. Dalton has completed 129 of 204 passes for 1,412 yards and seven touchdowns. To be successful, the Ravens have to stop the run so they won’t be fooled by play-action. They also have to get their arms up and try to knock down those quick passes. The play of the linebackers will be a key because they have to get good drops and fill passing lanes, which they have struggled with all season.

What’s at stake

The Ravens want to win this one because it is a division game and will give them two wins in a row. They have struggled against the Bengals in recent years, so a win gives them some confidence. After Cincinnati, the schedule gets a little harder. The Ravens travel to Seattle and host New England in a nationally televised game after a bye. If the Ravens have playoff aspirations, they have to beat the poor teams like the Bengals.

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What’s on the radar

Before everyone declares Pittsburgh’s season officially over, let’s see what happens with Steelers rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges. He completed seven of nine passes for 68 yards in the second half of the Steelers’ 26-23 overtime loss to the Ravens a week ago. He moved and threw well and put the long ball back in Pittsburgh’s offense. The Steelers still need to find another receiver to play opposite of JuJu Smith-Schuster, but the defense played well against the Ravens. It is way too early to count almost any team out of contention, but Hodges might be the answer for the Steelers now and in the long run.

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