Game Scout: Bengals at Ravens

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) at Baltimore Ravens (3-5)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore - TV: CBS
*TV announcers: Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
*Keys to the game: Baltimore has lost four of the past five meetings and a non-existent running game (2.8 yards per carry) is causing the pocket to crumple around QB Joe Flacco. He has been sacked four-plus times in four of the Ravens' eight games. RB Ray Rice managed a measly 17 yards on 11 carries last week, and the play-action game has become useless. The Bengals have to tighten up on run defense, especially up in the middle with the absences of DT Geno Atkins and LB Rey Maualuga. They allowed 157 yards against Miami last week, which is the second most rushing yards they've allowed this season. The Ravens' defense has its work cut out. They have to account for the Bengals' potent passing game headlined by QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green. The Bengals' repertoire includes a nice inside-outside running game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard. The combination has made offensive coordinator Jay Gruden unpredictable and sparked successful sustained drives -- 14 of 80-plus yards this season.
*Matchup to watch - Ravens CB Lardarius Webb vs. Bengals WR A.J. Green -- Webb has been targeted more often this season and was faked off his feet by Davone Bess on a touchdown against the Browns. Green is an imposing, fast receiver with prototypical skills and size, averaging 96 yards per game this season.
*Player spotlight - Bengals DE Michael Johnson: Johnson has only 2.5 sacks but one came last week against the Dolphins. He needs to be more of a force outside to compensate for the Bengals losing Atkins. Johnson has plenty of pass-rush pressures but hasn't been able to finish sacks.
*Fast facts: Flacco is 12-4 at home against AFC North opponents. ... Bernard leads rookies with 628 yards from scrimmage.
Cincinnati must get the edges blocked to beat Baltimore, but the Bengals nailed that plan in recent meetings and QB Andy Dalton is stepping up as one of the top quarterbacks in the conference thanks to a huge boost from his inside-out running game.
*Our pick: Bengals 18-17

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