Overview: The Baltimore Ravens will look to avenge their shocking week five loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in a crucial game for both teams. The Bengals are tied for first place in the AFC North while the Ravens are one game behind and need this win to stay within touch of the Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Last Week: After three straight close losses, the Ravens took out their frustrations on the previously undefeated Denver Broncos in a 30-7 rout. Ray Rice rushed for 84 yards and Joe Flacco was an efficient 20 of 25 passing for 175 yards and a score.
The Bengals were off last week following a dominating 45-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on October 25. In the most dominating performance of the season for the Bengals, Carson Palmer tossed five scoring passes and Cedric Benson rushed for 189 yards and a touchdown against his former team. The Bengals limited Chicago to 35 yards rushing and 279 total yards.
All-Time Series: The Ravens hold an overall 15-12 series advantage, but Cincinnati won the first meeting of the season in week five 17-14. Last season Baltimore claimed victories in both meetings. 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.
Key Questions Entering Week Nine:
Baltimore Ravens: Given that their three losses were by a combined 11 total points, the Baltimore Ravens could very easily be undefeated or at least close to it. However, since that isn’t the case, every game for the Ravens has a heightened sense of urgency, as they must keep pace in the division. They proved up to the task last week against Denver, but there are still questions on both sides of the ball. Can the Ravens regain the offensive consistency they showed earlier in the season? And is the defense back to their old selves following the big win over the Broncos? The Bengals will certainly have a say in answering those questions.
Cincinnati Bengals: The bye week may have come at a bad time for the Bengals as they seem to have just hit their stride with their dominating performance against Chicago. The Bengals looked like a definite playoff contender against the Bears both offensively and defensively. They showed that if both Cedric Benson and the passing game can get it going, they are almost unstoppable. The question for the Bengals this week is if they can maintain that double offensive threat against the Ravens.
Player To Watch:
Baltimore Ravens: Second year running back Ray Rice is emerging as a threat both running and catching the football. Rice has 525 yards rushing (an average of 5.5 yards per attempt) and has caught 38 passes for another 349 yards. He gained 69 yards rushing and 74 receiving in the first meeting with the Bengals and will be counted on for another big performance this week.
Cincinnati Bengals: In the first meeting against the Ravens, Cedric Benson became the first running back since 2006 to rush for more than a 100 yards against the Ravens. Coming off a 189 yard showing against the Bears, Benson is establishing himself as one of the top running backs in the league. Another big game against the Ravens would cement his place near the top of the class.
Predictions: While the offenses have been getting the notoriety, the reality is that this matchup between the Ravens and Bengals will be determined by which defense has the better game. The general belief is that the Ravens have a better defense as they certainly have more recognizable names. However, the Bengals actually allow fewer points per game. I am very tempted to pick the Bengals to win as I think they are a solid team, but I also think this game is a little more important to the Ravens and when veterans like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed need to dig deep they often do.
Final Score: Ravens 20, Bengals 14.