The Ravens' Jeromy Miles blocks an attempted field goal by Bengals kicker Mike Nugent during the third quarter of their September meeting, which Cincinnati won.
The Ravens' Jeromy Miles blocks an attempted field goal by Bengals kicker Mike Nugent during the third quarter of their September meeting, which Cincinnati won. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)


RAVENS: When protected, Joe Flacco has been at the top of his game. In the Ravens' five wins, Flacco has thrown 13 touchdown passes, three interceptions and has been sacked just once. In their two losses, he's thrown one touchdown, two interceptions and has been sacked seven times. Flacco has struggled historically against the Bengals with 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 13 games. Since tight end Dennis Pitta went down, Owen Daniels has 17 catches for 205 yards and a touchdown.


BENGALS: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had a solid start, but the offense regressed last week in a 27-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Cincinnati had just 135 total yards of offense and went three-and-out 10 times. In seven career games against the Ravens, Dalton has thrown seven touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. The Bengals have dealt with injuries to their wide receiver corps all season but indications are that star A.J. Green will try to play after missing the past two games with a toe injury.



RAVENS: Roles are starting to become defined in the Ravens' crowded backfield with Justin Forsett emerging as the primary back, Bernard Pierce handling goal-line carries and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro getting the occasional carry as a change-of-pace back. The Ravens have rushed for 100 yards or more in five of seven games this year. They did that just three times last season. They are seventh in the NFL in rushing yards per game (131.4) and are tied for second with seven rushing scores.

BENGALS: Second-year running back Giovani Bernard will be the Ravens' focus. He's averaging just 66.8 yards per game, but he is a dual-purpose threat who has four touchdowns and the talent to go the distance every time he touches the ball. He hurt the Ravens last year. The Bengals are getting No.2 back Jeremy Hill more and more involved and the bruising rookie has scored three touchdowns. Cincinnati had just 32 rushing yards last week against the Colts.



RAVENS: The Ravens have succeeded in taking away an opponent's run game and making them one dimensional. They still haven't allowed an individual 100-yard rusher and they've permitted only one team to gain 100 yards rushing in a game. Allowing just 87.4 rushing yards per game, the Ravens' run defense ranks seventh in the NFL. They haven't allowed a touchdown to an opposing running back since Week 3. Middle linebacker Daryl Smith had his best game of the season last week with 13 tackles.

BENGALS: Uncharacteristic of Marvin Lewis-coached teams, the Bengals have struggled to stop the run. They are allowing 146.3 rushing yards per game. Only the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers are surrendering more. Over their past four games, the Bengals have given up 687 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. Part of the issue has been injuries to their linebacker corps.Vontaze Burfict, Emmanuel Lamur and Rey Maualuga have all been sidelined.



RAVENS: Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has made a few adjustments that have strengthened the defense. Sending more pressure, the Ravens have 10 quarterback sacks and 24 quarterback hits the past two weeks. He has moved around outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who has a sack in three straight games. He also has juggled personnel in the secondary, rotating his safeties in and out. Cornerback Jimmy Smith has been the constant and he probably will be asked to shadow A.J. Green, who has been out the last two games with a toe injury.

BENGALS: As bad as their run defense has been, the Bengals have also been susceptible against the pass. They are allowing 270.3 passing yards per game, which ranks 27th in the league. They have just 10 sacks in six games. They do have seven interceptions. Geno Atkins, one of the NFL's top interior defensive linemen, has no sacks and has struggled to return to form after a knee injury. The Ravens should be able to make plays on the Bengals' secondary, especially veteran corner Terence Newman.




RAVENS: The Ravens have had tremendous stability in their kicking and return games the past couple of years, but a season-ending injury to veteran long snapper Morgan Cox has forced them to make some adjustments. Kevin McDermott was signed to perform long-snapping duties. Despite muffing his second punt in three games, Jacoby Jones will still handle return duties, coach John Harbaugh said. The Ravens' coverage teams have been effective.

BENGALS: John Harbaugh billed this game as a battle of the two top special teams units in the league and he acknowledged that the Bengals are actually ranked a bit better than the Ravens. Kevin Huber, who punted 10 times last week, has put 11 punts inside the 20 and has only one touchback all season. Brandon Tate and Adam Jones are both dangerous return men. Kicker Mike Nugent has struggled this year, missing six of 17 field-goal attempts.



RAVENS: The Ravens are clicking in every facet, having won four of five games since losing to the Bengals in their home opener. Their plus-89 point differential is the biggest in the league and they've won four games by 20 points or more. However, they've never played well in Cincinnati, losing four of their past five games there. A win would be the Ravens' third on the road this season, surpassing last year's total. A loss and they'd be swept by the Bengals for the first time in the Harbaugh era.

BENGALS: The Bengals certainly have the look of a reeling team but they are back at home, where they haven't lost a regular-season game since the 2012 season. Cincinnati also plays with a lot of confidence against the Ravens, beating them in six of the past 11 meetings. Despite their recent struggles, the Bengals are tied for the NFL's fifth-best turnover ratio (plus four) and the sixth fewest penalties (39) taken. They are a different team when Green is healthy.



These two teams are seemingly headed in opposite directions with the Ravens winning two consecutive games by a 77-24 margin and the Bengals winless in three games this month. But regardless of how they are playing, the Bengals always seem to be at the top of their game when they face the Ravens. Lewis and his staff have repeatedly found ways to frustrate the Ravens' offense. While it might be tough for the Ravens to get swept by Cincinnati and still win the AFC North, the Bengals are probably the more desperate team and they are playing at home. That gives them the advantage.

BENGALS, 23-20

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