Trying to figure out what the Ravens will do every Sunday has become an exercise in futility. Another surprising loss last weekend dropped them to 3-5 and logic says they will lose a fourth straight game Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals, but you never know with this team. There is always one thing you can count on, though: these bold predictions ... usually being wrong.
1. THE RAVENS WILL SCORE AN EARLY TOUCHDOWN:
Slow starts have been a major problem for the Ravens, who have trailed at halftime in each of their past five games. In fact, they have not held a lead in a game since the Week 5 win over the Miami Dolphins and they have led their opponents for just under 99 minutes this season. The Ravens have no explanation for why they have stumbled out of the gates, but it is a major point of emphasis for them. They are bound to start fast eventually, so why not this weekend? Look for the Ravens to score a touchdown on their first possession, but keeping up with the Bengals won't be easy.
2. TORREY SMITH WILL GET HIS SECOND TOUCHDOWN:
Smith continues to be everything the Ravens expected him to be this season, leading the team with 36 catches and 707 yards while averaging 19.6 yards per catch, which ranks second in the league. But this season, Smith has only scored one touchdown. He almost got in the end zone last week after catching a bomb from quarterback Joe Flacco but was dragged down inside the 20-yard line. Smith will finally break free again this weekend against a Bengals secondary that is without top cornerback Leon Hall. The Ravens will have opportunities to exploit the Bengals down the field, and Flacco and Smith will be more in sync than they were a week ago.
3. A.J. GREEN WILL GO OFF ON THE RAVENS DEFENSE:
The big Bengals wide receiver is one of the NFL's very best at his position, and he will show that Sunday against a Ravens secondary that got picked apart by Cleveland Browns quarterback Jason Campbell last week. Green and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton have been clicking recently, with Green topping 100 receiving yards in four straight games. The Ravens have shut down Green in the past, but that will change this week, especially if cornerback Jimmy Smith is out or limited with a thigh injury. Green will make it five straight games with 100-plus yards and bet on him scoring his sixth -- and maybe seventh and eighth -- touchdowns of the season.
4. THE RAVENS WILL HAVE NO SPECIAL TEAMS MISCUES:
Special teams miscues have plagued the Ravens in recent weeks, from the coverage breakdowns like the one late in the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers to the shanked punts and the muffed punt by Tandon Doss that cost them in the loss to the Browns. The Ravens had one of the NFL's best special teams units in 2012, but they have not had many clean games this season, must to the chagrin of the coaching staff. I think the Ravens, knowing they will have little margin for error, will have a clean one Sunday. They may not score on a big return, but they will eliminate mistakes, especially in the punting game.