Ravens Football: 5 Thoughts before Baltimore/Cincinnati
Date/Time: Sunday, September 10th, 2017 1:00 p.m. EST
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Series Record: 21-21
Finally, football is upon us; as the Baltimore Ravens look to kickoff their 2017 campaign at “The Jungle” in an attempt to do something they haven’t done since 2011, win in Cincinnati. Having lost their last six of seven games against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens will certainly face a challenge in a divisional week 1 showdown that may hold heavy implications come January.
Here are 5 thoughts to consider before Sunday’s matchup.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
1. Can the secondary slowdown A.J. Green?
It’s no secret that the Ravens invested heavily in the secondary this offseason. With the addition of Tony Jefferson, Brandon Carr, and Marlon Humphrey, the hope is the Ravens have a strong back end to bolster this defense, unlike in years past. No better time to prove what this secondary can do then this Sunday against A.J. Green who has averaged 90.8 yards per game and reeled in six touchdowns in eight career games versus the Ravens. Let’s not forget Green’s 227 receiving yards in 2015, which we’re the third-most the Ravens have surrendered in team history. The Bengals have clearly figured out how to attack the Ravens secondary over the years and it’s time the Ravens are able to make adjustments and buck the trend. “One of these days, we’ll figure out how to cover A.J. Green,” Harbaugh said. “It’d be nice if we did it one time before he retires.” It would be nice if they figured it out this Sunday!
2. Will the front seven pick up where they left off?
Watching the Raven’s defense fly around the field during preseason was fun to watch, specifically the front seven. If the defensive lineman and linebackers can continue playing at a high level, the secondary will greatly benefit. Being one of the strong suits of this year’s team, the defensive line could dominate this game, as Pro Football Focus ranked the Bengal’s offensive line unit the second worst in the league. The Bengals lost two of their best offensive lineman in Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler over the offseason. Whitworth graded out as PFF’s top pass-blocking tackle in 2016 and Zeitler graded out as both a top-10 pass-blocker and run-blocker in 2016.
3. Will the Ravens run the ball?
The Ravens finished the 2016 season ranked 28th in rushing, 21st in yards per rush, and 30th in rushing attempts. That stinks! In order for the Ravens to be successful this season they need to find a balance on offense and make a commitment to running the ball. When asked about the run game, this is what Marshal Yanda had to say. “The word I think of is commitment. I think we’re going to be committed to it this year more than we ever have.” For everyone’s sake, lets hope Yanda is right about this, as there is no need for Joe Flacco to be leading the NFL in pass attempts for a second year. It’s difficult to say what the offensive line and running back approach will look like and whether or not they will yield a successful ground game, but I can say with certainty we’re all excited to see what Greg Roman and this new blocking scheme is able to do.
4. Is the offense healthy?
Having Flacco, Breshad Perriman, Danny Woodhead, and Ronnie Stanley return to practice provided a much-needed boost of moral for this offensive unit. According to the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec, Flacco “made all the throws and didn’t appear to be visibly limited by the back injury.” That being said, it seems as if we’re all on edge when it comes to this team and injuries. How will Flacco react after taking his first hit in months? Will his back be able to sustain the pounding? Will Perriman or Woodhead pull-up with a hamstring injury? This offensive unit certainly can’t afford another significant injury, lets hope they can stay healthy.
5. What kind of impact will special teams have?
In a game which both teams know each other entirely too well, this could very well come down to field position. Due to the inconsistency and lack of chemistry on the offensive side of the ball, the offense could struggle out of the gate. In order to win this game I believe the Ravens will have to dominate on defense and win the special teams battle. If Michael Campanaro can generate a couple of big returns and provide the offense with a short field, the Ravens are due to grab their first win in Paul Brown Stadium in 6 years.