Ravens Can Take Control Of The AFC North With A Bungle Beatdown.

Featured, Sports and Bets — October 24, 2014 at 12:09 am by

Funny how things change in the NFL.  Four weeks ago the Cincinnati Bengals were sitting pretty at 3-0.  They had just blown out the Titans and already could boast a road division win versus Baltimore.

Then the Patriots ate their lunch up in New England.

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Since the New England mess, Marvin Lewis and his Bungles have sputtered, drawing to a tie with the distinctly average Panthers and then getting brained by the upstart Colts.  Four week ago the Bengals were labeled the, “best team in the AFC,” by some.  Now they’ve lost control of their division and are looking desperately to reset their season.

Enter our beloved Ravens.  Our boys have been on a roll.  The past two weeks, the Ravens have outscored their two NFC South opponents 77-24.  The Ravens have had their way on both sides of the ball, moving the rock at will on offense, and imposing their will to the tune of becoming the number one unit in points allowed on defense. Granted, the waters now get deeper as the Ravens travel to Cincinnati, but good football is good football, and the Ravens have been playing just that.

In the first meeting between the Bengals and the Ravens on September 7th, the Ravens were victimized by an incredibly slow start, by their own mistakes, and by a big play by A.J. Green.  Baltimore came out on opening day looking sluggish and looking like they were playing in a brand new offense.  Several Raven receivers dropped passes and quarterback Joe Flacco looked out of rhythm on a lot of his throws.  Hell, Justin tucker even missed a field goal. Add to that a Bernard Pierce lost fumble, botched clock management and execution on a long drive that yielded no points to end the half, and a third quarter Flacco interception, and Cincinnati’s 15-0 lead seemed insurmountable.

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But all of that changed after the Flacco pick.  For a quarter and a half, the Ravens offense owned the Bengals D.  Baltimore was winning the line of scrimmage and running the ball with authority, and Flacco was picking apart the Bengal secondary for most of his 345 yards.  The win would elude Baltimore after A.J. Green got loose on a blown coverage and after the Ravens’ attempt to tie the game was thwarted by back to back sacks deep in Bengal territory.  The game left a bitter taste in most Ravens’ fans mouths, but despite all of Baltimore’s mistakes it was still a winnable game.  It’s also a loss that the Ravens can, and need to, avenge this week.

Baltimore is a better team now than it was in Week One.  The offense is ranked fifth in the NFL and has clicked under Gary Kubiak.  Flacco is on pace for over 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns.  Justin Forsett has emerged as a legitimate three down back and the offensive line is playing  athletic and physical football.  (Good news for that group,  Eugene Monroe and Kelechi Osemele look to be set to start on Sunday.)   The offense has been executing Kubiak’s game plans early in games too, shooting out to a 38-0 lead against Tampa and a 17-0 lead against Atlanta.

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Getting out to a fast start will be key for the Ravens this week.  Putting the Bengals in a hole early will be a tough mental challenge for the struggling Cincy squad.  They’ve been bludgeoned in two of their last three games.  Might as well put them in that mindset again.

Meanwhile on defense the Ravens are making strides.  Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees is attacking more, lining up new defensive star Pernell McPhee all over the line of scrimmage and blitzing from the A-Gap more with his gifted inside linebackers CJ Mosley and Daryl Smith.  Mosley is an especially adept biltzer.  Maybe it’s the number 57, but he reminds me a bit of an in-his-prime Bart Scott as he chases down quarterbacks.  (Scott could blitz his ass off in Rex’s scheme.)  All of this pressure has freed up Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil from the outside.   Dumervil has been especially frightening for quarterbacks.  He is tied for second in the NFL with seven sacks. Overall ,the Ravens have logged ten sacks in the last two weeks.  That, of course, could have a lot to do with the competition, but it also points to Pees dialing up more pressure to cover his secondary.  It’s worked and it needs to continue.  In Week One the Ravens had zero sacks.  They need to get to Dalton this time out.

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Speaking of the secondary, the addition of Will Hill for the Ravens is big. The secondary played markedly better last week, limiting superstar Julio Jones to five catches.  The backfield communication, which was such an  issue in Week One when AJ Green broke free, seems better with Hill on the back end.  One game is certainly a small sample size, but the Falcons have two of the best receivers in football in Jones and Roddy White, and that duo was held in check until garbage time last Sunday.

Keep in mind as well that AJ Green looks doubtful to play this Sunday.   He hasn’t practiced this week (as of Thursday night) and he’s just doing some light running work.  It would be a surprise if he played.  His absence would be a huge advantage for Baltimore.

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The Ravens need to take advantage of this road situation.  It would seem that Baltimore is getting Marvin and Company at the right time.  The Bungles are reeling.  It’s time to kick them while they are down and while they are without their best player in AJ Green.  A win would put the Ravens at 3-1 within the division, with another division game upcoming the following week in Pittsburgh.  Back to back wins would be a huge step towards another division crown.

But let’s concentrate on Cincy first.  Without Green in the lineup, the Bengals’ best weapon is Gio Bernard. The Ravens need to keep him in check.  But perhaps even more importantly, the Black Birds need to hit Andy Dalton early and often.  He was too clean in Week One.

The Ravens also need to get a fast start on offense.  Putting the Bengals down early will give the Ravens a mental edge with the way things have played out for both teams in their recent histories.  An early lead will also keep the Ravens dominant running game relevant.  Baltimore averaged 4.7 yards per carry in Week One on limited attempts.  If the Ravens can keep a run first mentality on Sunday, it bodes well for grinding out a road victory.

It’s time for the Ravens to take control of this AFC North thing.  A Bungles beat down will be a step in the right direction.

 

 

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