Ravens v. Bengals Week 3 Preview

Last time the Bengals visited M&T Bank Stadium this happened.

AJ Green's touchdown gave the Bengals a lead they wouldn't lose and started a very tumultuous week for the Ravens. The Ravens would suffer another defeat  to the Bengals thanks to a late go-ahead touchdown by Andy Dalton, sealing the first sweep for the Bengals since 2009.

A year later, the Ravens find themselves in a must win situation – if you want to look at it that way. Most teams that start 0-2 don't find themselves in the postseason come January. For coach Harbaugh, this is his first time being in this situation since taking the Ravens Head coaching in 2010.

"You have to go forward. We have every opportunity to accomplish what we need to accomplish. We just have to get better." 

Those were Harbaugh's remarks at the team's news conference on Monday. The Ravens are returning from a very disappointing season-opening road trip that left many questions to be answered.

Offensively, they did get better. Flacco threw for 384 yards and 2 Tds while completing 71% of his passes. He connected with Steve Smith 10 times for 150 yards, also finding a new target in Crockett Gilmore, who caught both touchdown passes from Flacco. 

 Flacco led the Ravens offense to franchise record breaking season but inconsistency has always followed. (AP Photo)

Flacco led the Ravens offense to franchise record breaking season but inconsistency has always followed. (AP Photo)

The offense looked much better from their week one performance, not scoring a touchdown or eclipsing 200 total yards. My question is how consistent will this offense be this season? Consistency has always been a problem for Flacco and the Ravens offense, even after posting the best offensive season in franchise history.

While the offense emerge from the abyss after that disappointing week 1 performance against the Broncos, the defense allowed 38 points, 448 yards, and a game winning touchdown in the middle of the field. We all know that is not Ravens football.

Without Terrell Suggs, the Ravens pass rush was non-existent in the 33-38 loss to the Raiders. Derek Carr was only hit four times but never was sacked. On the Raiders' game-winning drive, Carr drove 80 yards and went 7/9, throwing the game winning touchdown to rookie Seth Roberts.

Ravens' cornerback, Ladarius Webb, told the Baltimore Sun that you can blame the loss on the secondary, which is pretty accurate. Cooper and Michael Crabtree both dropped 100+ yards receiving with a touchdown.

Andy Dalton and AJ Green will have the opportunity beat on a broken horse in the Ravens secondary.

Green only has 3 touchdowns in 6 career games against the Ravens but after that catch last season and the hail mary tip-pass he caught in 2013 to force overtime (also in M&T Bank Stadium), I have crowned Green as the "Raven killer". All three of Green's touchdowns against the Ravens have been over 50 yards; 51, 53, and 77.

Bengals are walking into this game 2-0 and on a 3-game win streak against the Ravens.

Bengals defeated the Raiders in week one 33-13, holding the Raiders offense to 246 total yards – Matt McGloin was also the starting quarterback for the Raiders that game.

The Bengals defense is back to full strength wit a healthy Geno Atkins, who tore his ACL last November. With Atkins back in the lineup, the Bengals pass rush is a force that could hinder the Ravens offense. In 8 games against the Ravens Geno only has 5 sacks but his importance and effectiveness can not be determined by the numbers.

Despite fumbling twice against the Chargers, Jeremy Hill will remain the starting running back for the Bengals. Hill was benched after he turned the ball over twice, being replaced by the Giovanin Bernard, who finished the game with 20 carries and 123 yards. 

Yeah, I’ll put him back in. It’s a new game. That one’s over and done with. We’re 2-0, so we’re moving on. We’re moving on to the next game.
— Bengals Offensive Coordinator, Hugh Jackson, via ESPN

Hill hasn't had any success against the Ravens, rushing for a total of 44 yards in two games. Bernard also with minimal fortune against the Ravens, career high being 58 yards.

The Bengals success will rely on Andy Dalton, who seems to always have high expectation. Dalton has a career record of 4-4 against the Ravens with 12 interceptions and a 70 QB rating. Dalton grew up against a completely different Ravens defense, one that had Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

Dalton has yet to turn the ball over and depending on the Ravens pass rush, he can possibly go another game without one. In 2013, Dalton threw 7 INTs against the Ravens in two games; in the first two games this season he has 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and a QB rating of 120. Dalton is a different QB from two years ago, and without a solid pass rush, I can see him picking apart this Ravens secondary.

At this point, the Ravens don't have a choice but to win this game. Their schedule is probably the toughest in the league, so wins are at a premium. This will be the home opener which means M&T will be rocking. I expect Flacco and the offense to have a consistent day while the defense force two turnovers. I see this being a low scoring affair but I'm picking the Ravens 21-10 to claim their first win of the 2015 season.