Ravens news, notes and opinions on 0-2, Joe Flacco vs. Bengals and more

The media – and maybe even some of the Ravens' players – will surely label this Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals a "must win." That's understandable, especially when you consider that just three teams since 1990 have made the postseason after starting 0-3, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

But taking a little broader view, I think the Ravens will be in OK shape if they come out of their next three games – at home against the Bengals, on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers and at home against the Cleveland Browns – with two victories.


That would leave them with a 2-3 record. Even if they split the following two games out on the West Coast – first against the San Francisco 49ers and then against the Arizona Cardinals – a 3-4 mark through their season-opening stretch wouldn't be a disaster.

They then would play three straight at home against the San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars and St. Louis Rams, and then back-to-back road games against Cleveland and the Miami Dolphins, two places where they've proven that they can win.


All along, the middle part of the schedule is where the Ravens figured to make up some ground after such a tough start. Obviously, all of this doesn't matter one bit if the Ravens don't start playing better. After all, losing to the Oakland Raiders and starting 0-2 gives them little-to-no margin of error the rest of the way.

Flacco vs. Bengals

Here are numbers that you will probably see a few times this week as the Ravens prepare for the Bengals: In 14 career games against the Bengals, quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown 13 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions.

His completion percentage is 59.5 against them and his quarterback rating is 69.6. He's averaging just 190.1 passing yards per game and 6.0 yards per passing attempt against Cincinnati.

Yes, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has had Flacco's number. The Ravens and Flacco badly need to reverse that trend.

Opportunity for Upshaw

Ravens executives, coaches and teammates love Courtney Upshaw. He is durable, plays hard and with a mean streak and does all the little things that winning teams require. I don't know how many times I've heard somebody at the team facility call Upshaw the team's most unheralded and underappreciated player.

I don't dispute any of that. But I will say that the Ravens have never needed Upshaw to elevate his game more than they do now. He played 62 snaps against the Oakland Raiders and didn't make much of an impact.

Rookie fourth-round draft pick Za'Darius Smith clearly has some work to do before he's ready to help the Ravens. Who knows how quickly Jason Babin will be able to pick up the defense and make an impact. The Ravens badly need Upshaw to get to the quarterback and take some pressure off of Elvis Dumervil on the other side.

This is his contract year and Upshaw is finally getting the opportunity to have an expanded role. It's up to him to cash in.

On cornerback depth

The Ravens' acquisition of cornerback Will Davis from the Miami Dolphins for a 2016 seventh-round draft pick is probably an indication of a couple of things.


One: Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome still believes in the old axiom that a team can never have enough cornerbacks. Two: The Ravens could be concerned about the persistent hamstring issues that Rashaan Melvin, who was expected to be the No. 4 corner but has been inactive for first two weeks, has been dealing with since training camp. And Three: The Ravens believe that fourth-round pick Tray Walker still could use some more seasoning before he is used on game day in a more prominent role.

That last point was pretty evident on Sunday when Lardarius Webb was forced out of the game for a couple of plays and the Ravens had safety Terrence Brooks, not Walker, in coverage.

Speaking of cornerbacks, I've gotten a lot of questions about why the Ravens didn't give Charles James, who is on the practice squad, an opportunity rather than trading for another corner. The media doesn't see enough of practice to gauge how James is progressing, so I really can't answer that question.

Davis, who is 5 feet 11 and 190 pounds, gives the Ravens a little bit more size on the outside than James (5-9, 179), but there's certainly not a significant difference there. James figures to get an opportunity at some point, and it could come sooner rather than later if the secondary has another game like the one on Sunday.

Brown's snaps

In fairness to wide receiver Marlon Brown, he's had an opportunity to make a couple of plays over the first two weeks and Flacco hasn't put the ball in the best spots. Still, you have to wonder whether Brown could see a reduction of snaps if he doesn't start making a few more plays soon.

In the first two games, Brown has played a total of 104 offensive snaps and his output is four catches on six targets for 36 yards. In comparison, Michael Campanaro has played 28 snaps and has one catch for eight yards, and rookie Darren Waller has played two offensive snaps and has yet to make a catch.

I'd be surprised if offensive coordinator Marc Trestman doesn't try to get Campanaro and Waller more involved in the offense and that could possibly happen at the expense of Brown.

Roster move coming

The Ravens will have to make a roster move to accommodate the addition of Davis. With Lorenzo Taliaferro returning and performing well against the Raiders, that probably puts rookie Terrence Magee in jeopardy because the Ravens probably won't want to carry four backs for too long.

With Timmy Jernigan back, the Ravens also could decide that they have one defensive lineman too many, which may not bode well for Christo Bilukidi who has been inactive for the first two games.

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