RAVENS PASSING GAME: There have been small signs of improvement with the Ravens' pass offense, but the team is still struggling to make big plays and sustain drives on a consistent basis. That quarterback Joe Flacco didn't turn the ball over last week against the Dallas Cowboys and was sacked only once qualifies as progress. Flacco has struggled against the Bengals with 19 interceptions in 15 games. The Ravens want to get Breshad Perriman involved after he was shut out against the Cowboys.
BENGALS PASSING GAME: Andy Dalton has gotten the best of the Ravens' defense in recent years, but he faces them without star wide receiver A.J. Green and versatile running back Giovani Bernard. Those players account for more than 40 percent of his targets. Dalton clearly misses former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson along with receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. He has been sacked 29 times, third most in the league. Tight end Tyler Eifert remains a matchup nightmare.
RAVENS RUNNING GAME: It's getting closer to a 50-50 split in carries between Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon. West had eight carries to Dixon's six last week, and West played only two more snaps than the rookie. Dixon is coming on, and Ravens coach John Harbaugh has voiced a desire to get him the ball more. The Ravens have talked about sticking to the run this week against a team that struggles to stop it, but we've heard that vow plenty of times before.
BENGALS RUNNING GAME: With Bernard out for the season, Jeremy Hill will carry more of the load. He's averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has six rushing touchdowns. He's also yet to fumble after putting the ball on the ground eight times in his first two NFL seasons. Bernard's absence should lead to a bigger role for Rex Burkhead. Dalton has given the Ravens trouble with his legs with four rushing touchdowns in nine career matchups. The Bengals don't often deviate from the run.
RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: The Ravens were overwhelmed in the second half by the Cowboys, but their run defense has maintained its No.1 ranking in the NFL. Despite giving up 118 rushing yards, the Ravens lead the league in allowing just 76.0 rushing yards per game. They've also given up a league-low four touchdowns on the ground. The Ravens have gone three straight games without giving up a touchdown to an opposing running back. Zachary Orr is 10th in the NFL with 88 tackles.
BENGALS RUSH DEFENSE: Uncharacteristic of a Marvin Lewis defense, the Bengals have had issues stopping the run. They're allowing 123.4 rushing yards per game, which is the fifth most in the NFL. Their eight rushing scores allowed also equal the number they gave up in 16 games last year. The personnel along their front seven remains mostly the same, although veteran newcomer Karlos Dansby is the team's leading tackler. Vontaze Burfict is the guy the Ravens will have to find and block.
RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Ravens don't have A.J. Green to worry about this week, but they have other issues that the Cowboys exposed and that need to be fixed. The pass rush comes and goes too quickly, and the Ravens aren't getting much off the edge from anybody beyond Terrell Suggs. Elvis Dumervil could eventually change that. The Ravens also have struggled in coverage outside of Jimmy Smith. They especially have to tighten up in the middle of the field. Still, they rank seventh overall versus the pass.
BENGALS PASS DEFENSE: The Bengals' secondary and pass rush has given the Ravens fits over the year. Safety Reggie Nelson is gone from the defensive back group, but plenty of talent remains. Cornerback Adam Jones could draw the assignment of Steve Smith Sr., which would make for a volatile matchup. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins stuffs the run and gets after the quarterback, and is probably the Bengals' best defensive player. The Bengals are allowing 248.7 passing yards per game.
RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Not a whole lot has changed here. Kicker Justin Tucker still hasn't missed, making 30 consecutive attempts dating back to last year. Punter Sam Koch is having a solid season and return man Devin Hester Sr. continues to make questionable decisions fielding punts. He's been fine on kickoffs, but the Ravens rank 30th in the league in averaging 6.0 yards per punt return. It might be time for Tucker to do more pop-up kickoffs rather than just going for touchbacks and giving up the 25-yard line.
BENGALS SPECIAL TEAMS: Like the Ravens, Cincinnati has a veteran kicking battery of kicker Mike Nugent, punter Kevin Huber and long snapper Clark Harris. Nugent, however, could be kicking for his job. He missed two extra-point attempts in last week's 16-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills. For the season, he's missed three extra points and five field-goals. Huber ranks 24th in net punting average. The Bengals have been solid in coverage, and rookie Alex Erickson has done some good things on returns.
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RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens clearly aren't in denial about the Bengals having their number. Players brought it up this week, acknowledging it's a concern. Now, it's up to them to do something about it. Until the Ravens stop committing so many penalties, it's going to be tough for them to develop any offensive momentum. Only two teams have been flagged more often than them. The Ravens have to regain their home dominance if they're going to win their division.
BENGALS INTANGIBLES: Cincinnati has qualified for the postseason in five straight years, but with a 3-6-1 record, the Bengals might have to win out to return. The odds aren't good, especially with Green and Bernard, possibly their two most explosive offensive players, now hurt. The Bengals are 1-4 on the road this season. Lewis always has his team primed to beat the Ravens. The Bengals have beaten the Ravens five straight times and seem to have the formula down pat.
PREDICTION: Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken said it best this week when he acknowledged if the Ravens don't beat the Bengals this season, he's not sure when it will ever happen. That's not to say the Ravens are overlooking the Bengals, who haven't won a game in over a month. Cincinnati has earned their full attention, but the Ravens are at home, they desperately need a win to remain in first in the AFC North and they're playing a struggling team. Nothing comes easy for the Ravens and a win won't Sunday, either. However, they'll survive a tight one and break their losing streak to the Bengals.