Overview: After suffering their first defeat of the season at New England, the Baltimore Ravens must recover quickly as they face the surprising Cincinnati Bengals.
Under the direction of former Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, the Bengals are off to their best start in several years and very easily could have been undefeated had it not been for a strange bounce in their opener against Denver.
Last Week: The Ravens had a chance to win at New England, but fell just short in a 27-21 defeat. Joe Flacco had another standout day connecting on 27 of 47 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Ray Rice also had a banner day with 103 yards rushing and five receptions for 49 yards.
The Bengals needed all 75 minutes of action allowed in the regular season to sneak out a 23-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Carson Palmer continued his solid season with 230 passing yards and two touchdowns.
All-Time Series: The Ravens hold an overall 15-11 series advantage, including victories in both meetings a year ago. In the 2008 season opener, the Ravens defeated the Bengals 17-10. They then completed the sweep with a dominating 34-3 victory in Cincinnati. Prior to 2008, the Bengals had won five of the previous six meetings between the two teams.
Key Questions Entering Week Five:
Baltimore Ravens: In atypical fashion for the Ravens, it is the offense that has been carrying the team so far this season. The offense is second in the league in scoring, but the defense is ranked 17th in points allowed and 11th in yards allowed. If the Ravens are to fulfill the potential they have displayed early this season, the defense must regain the swagger of previous years. The question entering week five is what adjustments defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and the defense will make against the Bengals.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are 28th in the league defending the pass so far this season. The question entering their matchup against the high-flying Ravens is whether they can stop Joe Flacco and his explosive offensive attack.
Player To Watch:
Baltimore Ravens: It is time for the Ravens defense to make some noise and that traditionally means it is time for Ed Reed and Ray Lewis to step up. Lewis leads the team with 24 tackles and has one forced fumble so far in 2009. Reed has been relatively quiet with just one interception so far.
Cincinnati Bengals: Chad Ochocinco leads the league with three touchdown receptions, but has not been a consistent weapon for Palmer. He last eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark in a game in the final game of the 2007 season. Facing a Ravens team that ranks 25th against the pass, this would seem to be a perfect game for Ochocinco to re-assert himself as the go-to receiver for the Bengals.
Predictions: Both teams are at the stage of the season where you will start to see if they are a contender or a pretender. The winner of this game will hold the lead in the AFC North. Given that Cincinnati doesn’t rank in the top 10 in the league in either offense or defense, you have to believe that at some point they will be exposed. The Ravens, especially at home, seem a prime candidate to do the unmasking.
Final Score: Ravens 28, Bengals 10.