Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- Baltimore has clinched a playoff berth and is still alive to win the AFC North if they win this game, depending on what the NFL decides to do with the delayed BUF // CIN game.
- As of this writing, the status of Lamar Jackson for this game is still in question. He has not practiced in weeks, and the Ravens have not scored more than 17 points without him.
- The Bengals playoff situation is a mess, given the uncertainty of their postponed game against the Bills, but they are likely to want/need a win this week.
- These teams have differing philosophies, with the Bengals having an aggressive offense built around their passing game while the Ravens are built around their running game and dual-threat quarterback(s).
How baltimore Will Try To Win ::
There are a few moving parts for the Ravens in this game, as the uncertainty surrounding the Bengals postponed game with the Bills casts a shadow of doubt on what this game means for each team. Recently there has been speculation the NFL could just cancel that game and use winning percentage to determine final regular season standings. That decision would lock up the AFC North title for the Bengals and leave the Ravens as either the #5 or #6 seed in the AFC. There is, however, a lot of benefit to being the #5 seed due to the fact that they would get to face the AFC South champion (Jaguars or Titans) rather than the Bills or Bengals in the first round. The Ravens would need to win this game, plus have the Chargers lose to the Broncos, in order for that to happen. Considering that this scenario is becoming increasingly likely, the biggest effect is likely to be the handling of star quarterback Lamar Jackson who has been out since Week 13 with a knee injury. Jackson was once again held out of practice to start this week, and if the Ravens can’t win the division, then there is no reason to push him – especially with a potential rematch with the Bengals looming in the first round of the playoffs.
With all of that in mind, I am approaching this game as if Jackson will not play this week. As for how Baltimore plays, they have averaged 12 points per game in the five games that Jackson has been out for. They have played some tough defenses and in some rough weather during that stretch, but it is hard to find much offensive optimism at this point for a team whose receiving corps resembles a preseason lineup and who has received almost zero production from their quarterback Tyler Huntley for the last month. The Bengals defense is a solid but not great unit – but the Ravens managed only 20 total points against the Browns and Falcons bottom-tier defenses in recent weeks, which mutes the expectations we can have this week for Baltimore. Mark Andrews is the focal point of the passing game, seeing 34% of the team’s targets in Huntley’s starts, and Andrews appeared close to full health for the first time in a while last week with his best game since Week 6. The Ravens are, however, a run-based offense and will split carries between JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards, with Huntley also being used as a runner to keep defenses honest. Dobbins took the majority of snaps last week in a very low-volume game for Baltimore, but head coach John Harbaugh spoke openly this week about the need to get Edwards more involved. The Bengals have been mediocre against the run this year, and we should expect the Ravens to pound the ball on the ground once again and Andrews to be the focal point of the low-volume passing attack that focuses on the intermediate areas of the field.
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How cincinnati Will Try To Win ::
mike johnson >>
- The news that the NFL will go to a “coin flip” to determine who gets the home game between these teams if Baltimore wins this week and they are slated to play each other again in the playoff, meaning that this game definitely has a lot of value for both teams regardless of how other games play out. The scenario where the coin flip would happen would be if Baltimore wins and the Chargers (who play at 4:25 EST) lose. As such, both teams should be full throttle here.
- I am in lockstep with JM’s assessment of the ceiling for Joe Burrow and the Bengals receivers, as well as the viability of Mark Andrews as a core piece of a Ravens offense that has a lot to play for and should be pushed more than they have been recently. Burrow plus one or two receivers make a ton of sense, any of the Bengals receivers as a solo piece also makes sense, and Andrews could be played alone or opposite Bengals players/stacks.
- Demarcus Robinson has only been targeted four times in total over the last two weeks in low-scoring games that the Ravens controlled throughout, but in the three weeks prior to that, he was targeted 20 times. Assuming the Bengals control this game as expected, Robinson has a great chance for another 6 to 9 target game at a very low price tag.
- Gus Edwards is averaging 6.5 yards per carry on 34 carries over his last four games, yet is priced at just $4,500. He barely played last week in a game with very low play volume, but his coach spoke of the need to get him on the field, and the Ravens have a huge incentive to win this game as it would open the chance for them to get a home playoff game. At that price tag, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Edwards get 12-15 touches, and with his efficiency and past goal-line usage, an 18-22 point game is very viable.