Three things to watch for as the Ravens head to Cincinnati on Thursday night

The Baltimore Ravens will head into Cincinnati on Thursday night to take on the Bengals in a key week two divisional match-up with both teams looking to get to 2-0 on the season.

The Ravens demolished the Amherst Central High Sch…I mean Buffalo Bills this past Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium 47-3. It was a dominant performance from the Ravens against a far inferior opponent, but the Bengals figure to present a greater challenge on Thursday night in the Ravens’ first road contest of the season.

While many of the Ravens’ starters were able to rest for a majority of the second half during Sunday’s blowout, the Bengals were locked in a nail biter against the Indianapolis Colts in their season opener. The Bengals prevailed 34-23 after outscoring the Colts 24-7 in the second half.

Here’s what to watch for this Thursday night.

USP NFL: BALTIMORE RAVENS AT CINCINNATI BENGALS S FBN USA OH

Joe Flacco will be looking to reverse his trend of poor play against the Bengals. Image Credit: USA Today

1) Can Joe Flacco change the narrative against the Bengals?

Joe Flacco has really struggled against the Bengals throughout his career. Flacco is 9-10 against them lifetime, but his numbers in those games have been extremely concerning. Flacco is throwing for roughly 203 yards per game and has thrown 19 touchdowns with 23 interceptions against Cincinnati. He also has a 60% completion percentage and a passer rating of 72.

It’s even worse for Flacco at Paul Brown Stadium. He is 3-6 lifetime there, averaging 174 yards per game with six touchdowns and 13 picks. His completion percentage drops to 58% and his passer rating drops to 66. He has been a train wreck in The Queen City.

Flacco got off to a hot start on Sunday, going 25-for-34 for 236 yards and three touchdowns against the Bills. It was encouraging to see each of the free agent wide receiver signees in Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead IV catch touchdown passes in the season-opening victory.

The running game was quiet on Sunday, potentially by design and Cincinnati allowed just 75 yards on 22 carries against the Colts in the opener. Joe and his new toys need to deliver for the Ravens to emerge victorious on Thursday night.

2) How does the offensive line perform against a formidable defensive front?

The Bills came into last week fresh off of a 29th-place finish in total sacks last season, tallying just 27. The Bengals finished with 41 sacks in 2017, placing them just outside of the top 10 and tied with the Ravens for 11th in the NFL last season.

In other words, this is a far more formidable adversary for the Ravens’ offensive line. The line held up well in week one against the Bills, allowing just two sacks on the day. Flacco had to move around in the pocket a good bit, but overall the offensive line did a nice job during the 47-3 drubbing.

However, the Bengals boast a pass rushing duo of Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins who are both looking to prove that they were worthy of their contract extensions that they received this summer. Both players got off to a great start notching week one sacks against the Colts’ Andrew Luck. The two have combined for 16.5 sacks in 28 career games against the Ravens.

This will be a key match-up on Thursday night as the Ravens’ offensive line will face their first test of the season against the Bengals. We’ll know a lot more about this unit and their chances to be successful this season after Thursday night’s contest.

3) Will the Ravens take advantage of the Bengals’ offensive line?

This is the number one key to the game on Thursday night. The Bengals’ offensive line is not quite as poor as the Bill offensive line, but it is certainly close.

The Bengals line up former Bill Cordy Glenn at left tackle, Clint Boling at left guard, rookie Billy Price at center, Christian Westerman at right guard, and Jake Fisher at right tackle. The Ravens recorded six sacks last weekend. Their ability to disrupt Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense is the key to success on Thursday night.

105146936-Marlon_Humphrey

Look for Marlon Humphrey to draw the tough assignment on A.J. Green. Image Credit: Getty Images

While the Ravens do boast a deep secondary, the absence of Jimmy Smith could be felt in this game if the Ravens end up having Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, and company out on an island with A.J. Green, John Ross, and Tyler Boyd. Green is a known “Ravens killer” and is one of the top receivers in the NFL. Ross is the second-year speedster out of Washington who disappointed in his first full season but has 4.4 40 speed. And I’d rather not discuss Boyd’s career highlight. (See 4th and 12)

Last season, the Ravens’ defense tallied five turnovers and five sacks in Cincinnati against Dalton and company last season in a season-opening 20-0 shutout win but they struggled in the season-ending 31-27 crushing defeat at M&T Bank Stadium. In that contest, Dalton was only sacked once and the Ravens only forced one turnover.

Look for this unit to dictate the play early and for this to be the indicator of who comes out on top on Thursday night.

Prediction: Ravens 28 Bengals 27

I think the Ravens’ pass rush will win the battle up front but Cincinnati is too talented to shut down completely. Flacco and the offense will do just enough on the other side of the ball to help the Ravens take sole possession of the AFC North lead.

The Details:

  • When: Thursday, September 13, 8:20 pm
  • Where: Paul Brown Stadium Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Radio: 98 Rock/WBAL 1090 AM
  • TV: NFL Network
  • Commentary: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman

Image Credit: Press Box

Advertisements

Podcast Episode 16: Time to book a February weekend in Atlanta, right? Featuring Logan Levy of Baltimore Beatdown

Welcome to Episode 16 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

Kicking off this week’s show is a full recap of the Ravens’ 47-3 dismantling of the Buffalo Bills (3:19). Along with revealing our players of the game (19:14) and discussing who’s trending (24:29), we discussed Lamar Jackson‘s regular season debut, the impressive effort put forth by the new wide receiver core, and the defense’s dominance. If you watched from home, Nolan and Ian will fill you in on what was featured on the new corner scoreboards at M&T Bank Stadium. They’ll also give an estimate of how full the crowd looked.

Even though Sunday could not have gone any better, the Ravens will head to Cincinnati on a short week to tangle with the Bengals on Thursday Night Football. We’ll tell you what to watch for (33:42) as the Ravens begin a five-game stretch with four of those contests taking place on the road.

Up next, we welcome in this week’s guest – Baltimore Beatdown Editor & Take it to the Bank podcast host – Logan Levy, who shares his thoughts on the Ravens’ dominant win (44:55). Levy also reveals his pick for Thursday’s game and ponders which areas of the contest will likely decide the outcome.

Ravens fans in the northern Maryland/Southern York County area: Come celebrate our first sponsorship on Thursday night at Seven Sports Bar & Grille in New Freedom, PA. Happy Hour is from 4-6 and you can also catch the Ravens game against the Bengals at 8:20. Specials are $3.50 Shock Top drafts & $8.77 half-rack ribs. We hope to see you there! 

Over the weekend, the Orioles eclipsed 100 losses on the 2018 season. Our next segment (1:03:10) dives into the club’s questionable decision to sit Adam Jones to “get a look” at other outfielders like Joey Rickard and John Andreoli. Needless to say, you won’t want to miss this rant. Jake, Nolan, and Ian also call into question the reasoning of Orioles ownership as to of why the brass of the team has not addressed the fanbase yet over the franchise’s direction.

To wrap up the show, we dive into our weekly numbers segment, taking a look at the best Ravens & Orioles players to wear the number 16 (1:17:24).

You can find the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloudiTunes, and now Google Play. Please leave us a review on iTunes, we love to hear your feedback and may read it on a future episode. Thank you for listening!

Eight thoughts following Ravens’ 47-3 win over Bills

BALTIMORE — Just like I predicted on the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast, the Ravens blew out the Bills at M&T Bank Stadium to kick off the 2018 regular season. The score was 47-3. Six different players on offense scored touchdowns. The defense forced two turnovers and collected six sacks. Buffalo never stood a chance.

Here’s eight takeaways from Baltimore’s nearly-perfect win.

1. A balanced offense is a good offense

A common knock on offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has been his tendency to abandon the run. Due to the poor weather conditions, we all expected the Ravens to rely heavily on the run, but that wasn’t necessarily the case against the Bills.

Collectively, the Ravens ran the ball 34 times and passed 38 times. Favorable field position and numerous starters getting pulled early left the box score looking like a preseason game, and for good reason. Mornhinweg’s balanced play-calling, along with the presence of Lamar Jackson, gave Buffalo’s defense fits.

2. Ravens’ defense dominates in historic fashion

I don’t think the Ravens defense could have started off their season any better than they did on Sunday. In the first half, the unit held the Bills to 0 first downs and 33 offensive yards. It marked the first time in franchise history that the Ravens defense held an opponent without a first down for the entire first half. The previous record was two first downs in a half – set in 2000 against the Bengals and again in 2008 versus the Raiders.

The Bills finished the game with 153 total yards, but many of those came in garbage time when veterans like Terrell Suggs had already exited. The Bills even trotted first-round rookie quarterback Josh Allen out there, which they were not anticipating, but Nathan Peterman was that bad. Peterman attempted 15 passes, completing five of them for 24 yards, and came out of the game with a rating of 0. Ouch.

3. This week, Joe Flacco was elite

After coming back from a torn ACL and a back injury over the last two seasons, Ravens media spent all of training camp telling us how great Joe Flacco looked at practice every day. Whether or not his camp greatness translated to a regular season game remained to be seen, but Flacco’s first outing of the 2018 season was a successful one.

Against Buffalo, Flacco went 25-for-34 for 236 yards with three touchdown passes. He was effective and did a great job spreading the ball around to different receivers. He used his receivers (11 receptions, three touchdowns), tight ends (eight receptions), and running backs (six receptions). Flacco’s had a bad habit of relying too heavily on running back and tight-end check-downs, but on Sunday he was aggressive and took more risks, even in the pouring rain.

Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium has been a house of horrors for Flacco, but hopefully he can carry his success from this game into Thursday night.

4. Jackson already proving to be a big asset

Speaking of Jackson, we saw more than him on Sunday than we anticipated. That’s a good thing. With the Ravens up 40-0 in the third quarter, Jackson got to play the final 25 minutes as the starting quarterback after being used as a decoy.

Jackson was mainly used as a runner when he ran with the starters, finishing the game with 39 yards on seven carries. Even when he didn’t get the ball, Buffalo’s defense had to account for him and send defenders his way. As the season progresses it will be interesting to see how defenses adjust to the Ravens’ packages featuring Jackson. For now, it gives opposing defenses an extra element to devote practice time to, and that can only help the Ravens.

5. The retooled receiving corps could not have had a better debut

The Ravens signed receivers Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown this offseason, sending $20 million in combined guaranteed money their way.

On Sunday, their investment paid off. Snead caught four passes, while Crabtree and Brown each tallied three catches for 131 combined yards and a touchdown apiece. Each of these receivers brings something different to the table, and the Ravens found ways to use their varied skill-sets. They’ll be tested against better defenses, but the Ravens could not have asked for a better start with this group.

6. The offensive line remains a concern

Coming into Sunday, the offensive line was considered the worst position group on Baltimore’s roster, and that remains the same even after Sunday’s huge win. Flacco only got sacked twice, but he constantly had to scramble out of the pocket.

Starting running back Alex Collins couldn’t find any holes to run through, contributing just 13 yards on seven carries for an average of 1.9 yards-per-carry. Kenneth Dixon had better luck, leading the team with 44 rushing yards on 13 carries. However, he left the game in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury and did not return.

The Ravens got by against a bad Bills defense. When the Ravens face pass rushers like Myles Garrett and Von Miller, the offense will pay if the line struggles.

7. Pass rush shines with mix of youth and old-timers

With Terrell Suggs’ 36th birthday on the horizon, the Ravens will rely on their young pass rushers to step up and play a bigger role this season. Suggs continued to draft his Hall of Fame resume with a sack of his own on Sunday, but we also saw Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams, and Kenny Young break into the backfield and record sacks. Not only that, but cornerback Tavon Young got involved too and led the team with two sacks.

It’s going to be important for the Ravens to limit Suggs’ snap count this season, especially early on. Several times on Sunday, I noticed that Suggs remained on the sideline for several pass rush situations, with Matt Judon and either Smith or Williams lined up on the ends. Not only will keeping Suggs rested help his motor in December, but he can coach up this talented group of outside linebackers. That will pay dividends in future seasons after Suggs calls it a career.

8. Despite terrible weather, Baltimore gathers a decent crowd for much-needed support

Weather-wise – Sunday, the entire weekend, the entire summer – have all been horrible. It’s also no secret that attendance at Ravens games has seen a massive dip in recent seasons. When I saw Sunday’s forecast earlier in the week, I was very concerned that the stadium would be half empty again at 1:00.

Judging from this picture from WNST‘s Nestor Aparico, along with seeing the stands on live television, M&T Bank Stadium was not full, but the crowd was a decent size in spite of the weather. The Ravens worked very hard over the offseason to revitalize a disgruntled fanbase. They drafted Lamar Jackson, they put in the corner scoreboards, and they reduced concession prices. A disappointing crowd would have brought all of those sad feelings back and put a damper on the season opener, but Baltimore avoided that on Sunday.

As the game went into the second half, a good amount of fans left after getting soaked. That’s understandable, and the stadium needs to be rocking for the next Ravens home game on Sept. 23 against Denver. All factors considered, I’m sure that John Harbaugh and the Ravens appreciate the fans who showed up and fought through the down-pouring rain.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun