xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Ravens vs. Bengals scouting report for Week 7: Who has the edge?

The Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals twice, by a combined score of 65-6, in 2020. They’ll face a tougher matchup in all phases of the game Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. Here’s who has the edge in each phase:

Ravens passing game vs. Bengals pass defense

Quarterback Lamar Jackson took a more conservative approach in the team’s 34-6 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, but he still ranks fifth in the league in yards per attempt. Tight end Mark Andrews (5 catches on 6 targets, 68 yards, 1 touchdown) was Jackson’s top target in Week 6 and has graded as the league’s best player at his position, according to Pro Football Focus. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown just missed a touchdown catch against the Chargers; he leads the team in receiving yards (486) and touchdowns (5). The Ravens could be without wide receiver Sammy Watkins (hamstring) for a second straight week. First-round draft pick Rashod Bateman made up for Watkins’ absence against the Chargers with four catches, all of them for first downs, on six targets. Jackson’s pass protection broke down in the second quarter against Los Angeles, and the Ravens will be without left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) for the rest of the season. Alejandro Villanueva has filled in ably, but he’s dealing with a knee injury that has kept him out of practices each of the past two weeks.

Advertisement

The Bengals have limited opposing quarterbacks to 5.7 yards per attempt. They blitz infrequently (20.2% of drop-backs, per Pro Football Reference) but have one of the best safety duos in the league in Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, and a good coverage linebacker in Logan Wilson (4 interceptions). Defensive end Trey Hendrickson (5½ sacks, 11 quarterback hits) is their most dangerous pass rusher. Jackson will have to be careful if he looks to attack this defense downfield, though Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers put up gaudy passing lines against the Bengals.

EDGE: Ravens

Advertisement
Advertisement

Bengals passing game vs. Ravens pass defense

Quarterback Joe Burrow continued his outstanding play in a Week 6 win over the Detroit Lions. Burrow, the first overall pick in the 2020 draft, has completed 70.7% of his passes and averaged 8.9 yards per attempt, fourth best in the league. He does not look deep as much as Jackson and is one of the league’s least prolific play-action passers, but he has made few bad throws. Rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (20.5 yards per catch, 5 touchdowns) is already a game-breaking weapon. Tyler Boyd (28 catches on 38 targets, 290 yards) has given the Ravens trouble over the years, but they largely shut him down in two dominant victories last season. They will also have to account for running back Joe Mixon (13 catches on 16 targets, 90 yards). The Bengals have done a better job protecting Burrow, who has faced pressure on 21.7% of his drop-backs compared with 24.1% last season.

The Ravens played their best pass defense of the season against Justin Herbert and the Chargers, relying less on exotic blitzes and disguises than on sound coverage and tackling. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey largely took No. 1 wide receiver Mike Williams out of the game and could be asked to do the same against Chase. He said Chase, the No. 5 overall pick out of LSU, has “made the NFL look really easy.” Safeties Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott made important plays as pass rushers and in coverage in Week 6. Outside linebacker Justin Houston produced his best game as a Raven with a sack and several pressures on Herbert. The Ravens still rank 15th in efficiency against the pass, according to Football Outsiders, so they’ll have to prove their Week 6 performance was not a fluke.

EDGE: Bengals

Ravens running game vs. Bengals run defense

The Ravens rediscovered their power game against a poor Chargers run defense, piling up 187 yards on 38 carries. The right side of their offensive line, aided by a brilliant blocking performance from fullback Patrick Ricard, put on a clinic. They could be without Latavius Murray (ankle), who has served as their No. 1 running back the past few weeks. If he’s unavailable to face the Bengals, they would turn to Devonta Freeman (9 carries for 53 yards against the Chargers) and Le’Veon Bell, who they elevated to their 53-man roster Tuesday. Jackson (392 yards, 6.1 yards per carry) will be their top running threat no matter what.

Advertisement

The Bengals allowed the Ravens to rush for 404 yards in Week 17 last season, but they’ve been far better in 2021, ranking fourth in DVOA against the run. Wilson leads them in tackles, and defensive tackle D.J. Reader is a dominant interior defender.

EDGE: Even

Bengals running game vs. Ravens run defense

The Ravens have held Mixon to 3.2 yards per attempt in seven career matchups, but he’s a tough, productive (480 yards, 4.3 yards per carry) runner who the Bengals lean on heavily. Backup Samaje Perine (20 carries, 87 yards) has run well in limited opportunities. The left side of Cincinnati’s offensive line, featuring tackle Jonah Williams and guard Quinton Spain, has played well.

The Ravens held Chargers running back Austin Ekeler to 7 yards on six carries. Defensive end Calais Campbell continued his string of excellent performances against the run, and veteran Josh Bynes provided a calming presence at middle linebacker in his first start of the season. The Ravens have allowed 4.1 yards per carry, 11th best in the league.

EDGE: Even

Ravens special teams vs. Bengals special teams

The Ravens dominated the Chargers on special teams, baiting Los Angeles into a series of unproductive kickoff returns while Devin Duvernay (114 total return yards) gave them a persistent leg up in field position. Kicker Justin Tucker made both of his field-goal attempts and is 13-for-14 for the season. The Ravens rank No. 1 in special teams DVOA.

The Bengals have covered kickoffs and punts well, but kicker Evan McPherson has missed three of 10 field-goal attempts, with two of those misfires coming inside 50 yards. They have returned 13 kickoffs this season compared with seven for the Ravens, so don’t be surprised if Tucker tries to lure them into poor field position with kicks near the goal line.

EDGE: Ravens

Ravens intangibles vs. Bengals intangibles

The Ravens pounded the Bengals by a combined score of 65-6 last season, and they’re riding high, coming off their most complete game of the season against the Chargers. They have sent more players to injured reserve than any other team in the league and still lead the AFC standings, a testament to their resilience under coach John Harbaugh and their adaptability with Jackson at quarterback.

The Bengals have also found their confidence after a few years in the wilderness, with Burrow living up to his draft billing and a defense that puts last year’s version to shame. They would love nothing more than to upset the Ravens and seize pole position in the AFC North.

EDGE: Ravens

Prediction

It’s time to put aside any thought that the Bengals are pushovers. Joe Burrow is coming into his own as a winning pro quarterback with help from an elite big-play receiver in Chase. The Cincinnati defense has exceeded expectations after an ugly end to 2020. The Ravens still have home-field advantage and a more reliable track record of success with Jackson at quarterback, but they’ll be challenged in all phases in a game that goes down to the last few possessions. Ravens 27, Bengals 23.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement