Analysis of the offense, defense, special teams and intangibles heading into the Ravens' home game against the Cincinnat Bengals.
RAVENS: Joe Flacco took plenty of shots downfield in last week's loss to the Oakland Raiders, completing eight passes of 20 yards or longer, compared to one the previous week. However, he's not had much success against the Bengals, who have intercepted the Ravens quarterback 18 times in 14 career matchups. Eight different Ravens caught passes against the Raiders. The Ravens need guys like Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and Maxx Williams to make plays and take pressure off of Steve Smith Sr.
BENGALS: Much-maligned Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is off to a great start, completing over 68 percent of his passing attempts and throwing five touchdown passes. He's yet to be sacked and he's one of just two starting quarterbacks — Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is the other — to enter Week 3 without a turnover. A.J. Green remains the Bengals' top receiving threat but a healthy Tyler Eifert has added a new dimension. The tight end already has 13 catches and three touchdowns. (EDGE: BENGALS)
RAVENS: The Ravens rushed for 109 yards and averaged 4.4 yards a carry against the Raiders, but many of those yards came when they ran out of the shotgun formation. They still are lacking a rhythm in their run game. Justin Forsett has 111 rushing yards through two games and has yet to find the end zone. Lorenzo Taliaferro made his debut last week and finished with 46 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. The Bengals are stout up front, so the Ravens offensive line will have its hands full.
BENGALS: Work has been split pretty evenly between the Bengals' power back, Jeremy Hill, and their speed one, Giovani Bernard. Hill has 29 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns and Bernard has 28 rushing attempts for 186 yards. Hill, who fumbled five times last year as a rookie, was benched for part of last Sunday's victory over the San Diego Chargers following two first-half fumbles. Cincinnati is averaging 151 rushing yards per game, the NFL's fourth-highest total through two weeks. (EDGE: BENGALS)
RAVENS: Through two weeks, the Ravens rank 11th in the league against the run, having surrendered 83 rushing yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. However, their two opponents have succeeded in finding traction on the ground late in games, which has made it difficult for the Ravens defense to get off the field. Still, this is one area of the defense where there's not a lot of concern. C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith are No. 1 and No. 2 in tackles for the Ravens, just like last season.
BENGALS: The Bengals' focus will be on stopping the Ravens ground game and making Joe Flacco and company one dimensional, a task that they've been accomplished in the past. Cincinnati is allowing an average of 97 yards per game on the ground, 13th-fewest in the NFL. The San Diego Chargers had some success running the football on the Bengals last week, gaining 131 yards on 25 carries. Linebacker Vincent Rey is second on the team in tackles. (EDGE: RAVENS)
RAVENS: After a solid performance in Week 1 against the Broncos there are now many questions about this group, which was embarrassed by the Raiders. The pass rush was nonexistent, the tackling was atrocious and the communication was lacking. All need to be fixed if the Ravens are going to beat the Bengals. Expect top cornerback Jimmy Smith, who played poorly last week, to shadow Bengals star wide receiver A.J. Green. Elvis Dumervil is looking for first sack.
BENGALS: Marvin Lewis' defense has given Flacco fits over the years. With a healthy Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, the Bengals have three capable pass rushers. They're also loaded in the secondary with their top four cornerbacks all being former first-round draft picks. Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick, the starting cornerbacks, contained the Raiders' Amari Cooper and the Chargers' Keenan Allen over the past two weeks. Cincinnati is holding teams to 203 passing yards per game, seventh-fewest in the league. (EDGE: BENGALS)
RAVENS: While the performance of the offense and defense fluctuated dramatically from Week 1 to Week 2, the Ravens special teams units were steady. Justin Tucker is 6-for-6 on field-goal attempts and has had no issues with the longer extra points. Sam Koch is averaging 50.3 yards per punt, which ranks sixth in the NFL. The coverage teams have been solid. The Ravens haven't gotten a lot from the return game, but Michael Campanaro hasn't really had any opportunities on kickoffs.
BENGALS: Like the Ravens, the Bengals have had a lot of stability with this group. Punter Kevin Huber, kicker Mike Nugent and long snapper Clark Harris have worked together for six consecutive seasons. Huber, a Pro Bowl selection last year, broke team records for gross and net punting averages. Nugent has been a little shaky, missing an extra point and a 36-yarder this year. Jones and Brandon Tate are veteran return men. (EDGE: RAVENS)
RAVENS: The Ravens' makeup and psyche will be tested in a big way this week after a stunning loss to the Raiders. By now, the players have all heard the historical outlook of teams that started 0-3. Only three (or just over two percent) of them have qualified for the playoffs since 1990. It's Week 3 and Ravens are already in must-win territory. The Ravens' struggles against the Bengals are well-documented, but they are home at M&T Bank Stadium, where they are 45-11 under coach John Harbaugh.
BENGALS: The Bengals have given the Ravens more problems in recent seasons than any other team. Cincinnati has beat the Ravens three straight times and in four of the past five meetings. Harbaugh has lost one game at home in September, and it was to the Bengals. Lewis has a battle-tested and veteran team that has made the playoffs four consecutive seasons. Cincinnati would like nothing more than to put the Ravens in an 0-3 hole. (EDGE: EVEN)
PREDICTION: If the Ravens are going to make anything of their season — and I still believe that they will — it probably has to start Sunday against an opponent that has given them more trouble than any other. The Bengals look to be the better team at this point, but the Ravens are clearly the more desperate one and they are back at M&T Bank Stadium, where they enjoy one of the league's best home-field advantages. The bet here is that the Ravens stop the bleeding and figure out a way to win one of their biggest early-season games in years. Ravens, 23-20