The Ravens released cornerback Maurice Canady and signed wide receiver/return specialist De’Anthony Thomas.
RAVENS PASSING GAME: Quarterback Lamar Jackson threw efficiently against the New England Patriots’ league-leading pass defense, completing 17 of 23 attempts and converting on a series of key third and fourth downs in the second half. Wide receiver Marquise Brown returned after missing two games with an ankle injury and caught three passes on four targets for 48 yards. Tight end Nick Boyle had one of the best receiving games of his career against the Patriots, catching all five passes thrown his way and scoring his first career touchdown. Running back Mark Ingram II was effective out of the backfield, catching two passes for 29 yards on the Ravens’ 14-play touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. The Ravens rank 20th overall in passing and 14th in yards per attempt.
BENGALS PASSING GAME: Rookie quarterback Ryan Finley will start his first NFL game Sunday, replacing Andy Dalton as the Bengals look for a path forward after their 0-8 start. Finley made first-team All-ACC at North Carolina State last season but has yet to play a regular-season NFL snap. With Dalton at the helm, the Bengals ranked 11th in the league in passing yardage but 27th in yards per attempt. Cincinnati’s best offensive player, wide receiver A.J. Green, has missed the first half of the season with an ankle injury and is not expected to play. The Ravens held the Bengals’ top receiver, Tyler Boyd, to just three catches for 10 yards in Week 6. But 6-foot-5 Auden Tate caught five passes for 91 yards as the Bengals picked on Ravens cornerback Maurice Canady, whom they released this week. Tight end Tyler Eifert has finally stayed healthy this season but has averaged just 8.3 yards per catch.
RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens continued their league-best performance against the Patriots, rolling up 210 yards on the ground behind strong games from Ingram and Jackson. Ingram needed just 15 carries to produce his third 100-yard game as a Raven, though he did fumble deep in Ravens’ territory. The Patriots held Jackson to a modest 3.8 yards per carry, but he’s still on pace to obliterate Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback. He torched the Bengals for a career-high 152 yards in Week 6. The Ravens average 33.8 yards per game more than the second most productive running team in the NFL and also lead the league at 5.5 yards per carry.
BENGALS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens held Joe Mixon to 10 yards on eight carries in Week 6. Cincinnati’s featured running back has averaged just 3.2 yards per carry overall, running behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Cincinnati ranks last in the league in rushing and 31st in yards per attempt. Their guards and tackles all grade as mediocre to poor run blockers, according to Pro Football Focus. The Bengals might get a boost from the return of starting left tackle Andre Smith, who’s been out since Week 5 with an ankle injury.
RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: The Ravens rank second in the league in run defense but allow 4.3 yards per carry, which ranks 18th. The bottom line is that most opponents have not tried to beat them on the ground. That was certainly the case with Cincinnati in Week 6. Linebacker Josh Bynes has excelled against the run since becoming a starter in Week 5. Defensive tackles Michael Pierce, Brandon Williams and Chris Wormley have all earned solid run-defense grades from Pro Football Focus.
BENGALS RUSH DEFENSE: The Bengals have been pitiful in this area, surrendering a league-worst 177.6 rushing yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. The Ravens gashed them for 269 yards in Week 6. Cincinnati’s starting inside linebackers, Nick Vigil and Preston Brown, have been two of the worst run defenders in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Interior linemen Andrew Billings and Geno Atkins are better but haven’t gotten much help.
RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady repeatedly found Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu Sr. on underneath routes, completing 20 passes on 25 combined targets to his top two receivers. But the Ravens secondary continued its recent trend of creating points off turnovers. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey returned a fumble for a touchdown, and safety Earl Thomas III picked off a Brady pass to set up the team’s final touchdown drive. Cornerback Jimmy Smith returned to play 54 snaps after missing the previous six weeks with a sprained knee. The Ravens used Brandon Carr in the slot and at safety so they could get all of their top defensive backs on the field. Their pass rush performed well against the Patriots, hitting Brady 10 times and sacking him twice. But the Ravens still rank 26th overall in pass defense, a disappointing figure given their heavy investment in the secondary.
BENGALS PASS DEFENSE: The Bengals have struggled here as well, allowing opponents to average a league-high 8.3 yards per attempt. They’re playing without their most accomplished cornerback, Dre Kirkpatrick, who’s out with a knee injury. But they should benefit from the return of their top pass rusher, Carlos Dunlap, who didn’t play against the Ravens in Week 6 because of a knee injury. Atkins remains a threat to reach the quarterback from inside, but the seven-time Pro Bowl selection has faded from his peak level at age 31. The Bengals struggled to cover Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (six catches for 99 yards) in Week 6. Their inside linebackers and safeties have played poorly against the pass all season.
RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Coach John Harbaugh expressed dissatisfaction with this group’s recent performance, which hit a low point when Cyrus Jones muffed a punt to set up a Patriots touchdown on Sunday night. Justin Tucker missed an extra-point attempt against the Patriots, the first blemish on his 2019 record. Sam Koch was the bright spot, averaging 49 nets yards on his two punts and burying the Patriots in their own territory. The Ravens signed returner De’Anthony Thomas, who could handle either punts or kickoffs. Despite their recent struggles, they still have the third most efficient special teams in the league, according to Football Outsiders.
BENGALS SPECIAL TEAMS: This is Cincinnati’s one clear strength. Brandon Wilson returned a kickoff for a touchdown in Week 6 against the Ravens and has averaged an impressive 37.4 yards overall. The Bengals have also played well in coverage, and kicker Randy Bullock has made 11 of 13 field-goal attempts.
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RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens are coming off their most impressive win of the season and brimming with confidence about their big-picture direction behind Jackson. They have to guard against a letdown in Cincinnati, but Harbaugh sounded an early alert, saying they’d have to play their best game to beat the winless Bengals. They’ve won their past two against Cincinnati after a long stretch of difficulty against their AFC North rival.
BENGALS INTANGIBLES: The Bengals are searching for any hint of positivity after losing their first eight games under first-year coach Zac Taylor and making a quarterback change. They traditionally give the Ravens trouble and will benefit from the returns of several key players. They’re also coming off their bye week.
PREDICTION: There are reasons for the Ravens to be concerned about this game, including the potential for a post-Patriots letdown. But there’s no reason to think the Bengals are equipped to slow down the Ravens’ league-best running game or to protect their debuting quarterback, Finley. Ravens 27, Bengals 17.