Re: NFL Week 13
Thursday, November 30
Cincinnati Bengals -3 (10 Units)
The Baltimore Ravens had their fun last week and now it's time for a little bit of a letdown. The Ravens embarassed, and I mean embarassed the Pittsburgh Steelers last week which pretty much put an end to the defending champions time as champs because the Steelers have virtually no chance of making the playoffs. Impressive win to say the least but was it that Baltimore is so good or was it that Pittsburgh is really all that bad. I would say a little bit of both because we have seen both sides of the story. However I must remind everyone of Baltimore's road play this season. The pass rush and the spunk in the defense has been nothing on the road like it has been at home and I wish I could explain why. Is it because Steve McNair can't lead on the road or is it because opposing teams get on their high horse when Baltimore is in town? Who knows. What I do know is that Baltimore, although 3-1 on the road this year, have not looked impressive at all away from home. They managed to beat Tennessee by only one point and allowed 26 points in their last road game. They blew out an overrated New Orleans teams which was impressive but was on the heels of a 13-3 loss in Denver. Last but not least, their first road game of the year was in Cleveland where the Ravens won by...once again...only one point. So now that they are facing the best offense they have seen all season, how will they do? The Ravens average 21.4 points per game away from this season on 316.4 total yards and 5.0 yards per play. Cincinnati's defense has struggled all season allowing 29.4 points per game but the shutout they pitched last week should be confidence boosting. Allowing a lot of points on defense can also be the result of a team that scores a lot. On the ground, RB Jamal Lewis has led the team to only 95.8 rushing yards per road game on 3.8 yards per carry which can't be good because Cincinnati allows 4.3 yards per carry at home. If anyone is going to shine for the Ravens it's going to be Jamal Lewis but that's tough to do from behind. In the air, QB Steve McNair has played seven career games on a Thursday or Saturday and in those games his QB Rating is 68.8, he has completed only 53.7% of his passes for 6.0 yards per pass attempt, 5 TD's and 5 Int's. McNair is also a much better QB versus NFC teams and a much better career QB at home. He has done well on the road this season but has thrown 5 interceptions away from home. Cincinnati's pass defense allows a ton of yardage so I don't expect McNair to hold back. However, I do expect McNair to struggle if he has to play from behind which I completely expect him to have to do. I don't have much faith in the Cincinnati defense so anything they can such as force punts, intercept the ball or force fumbles will be appreicated. The Ravens are due for a bad performance and I expect it to come on the short week as they hold off division champion celebrations for another week or another one after that (at home against Cleveland)
The Cincinnati Bengals are favored in this game for a reason. That reason being that they are coming off one of their best overall performances of the season last week as they blew away the Cleveland Browns and returned to the Bengals team of the past two years. Perfect. The offense and defense should both come into this game with a great deal of confidence knowing that they are finally getting some respect as a team and knowing that this game means a lot in terms of playoff implications. The Bengals managed to score 20 points on the Ravens the last time they met and that was on the road. I expect Marvin Lewis to have a very good game plan designed for tonight and that would include using his 3-4 wide receiver sets to expose some weaknesses in the Ravens defense. Now I know the Bengals scored only 13 points in a home game against the Patriots earlier this season but the offense wasn't clicking back then and it seems to have gotten back on track as they have scored 20+ points in five straight games and are starting to go back into the 40+ points per game like they were last year. After winning two straight road games against Cleveland and New Orleans, this is going to be a jacked up Cincinnati team that has nothing to lose if they go all out and throw everything they have at this defense. The Bengals average 34.0 points per game in their last three games and have done so on 439.3 total yards of offense and 6.9 yards per play (top in the NFL for that 3 game period). Baltimore's defense has allowed only 12.0 points per game in their last three games on only 241.7 total yards and 4.5 yards per play. On the ground, RB Rudi Johnson still hasn't found his jump but he could have success tonight. I say that because although he is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry the last three games, Baltimore's last three opponents have averaged 3.9 yards per carry and abandoning the run game early would be a mistake. Mike Shanahan stuck to the run game with Tatum Bell against Baltimore and it worked to perfection. In the air, QB Carson Palmer is playing like a superstar lately. In his last three games he has completed 73.5% of his passes for 10.0 yards per pass attempt (WOW) while being sacked 6 times and throwing only 2 interceptions. The Ravens have an outstanding secondary but they haven't see a QB-WR connection on the road like this one all season which will surely expose some holes in that secondary. The Bengals are converting 43.2% of third downs in their last three games and they are turning Red Zone entries into touchdowns 61.5% of the time in the last three games settling for only four FG's. Baltimore's red zone defense has not been as good as usual the last three games so if Palmer can find OCHO CINCO and company on some deep routes, he should have no problems cashing in with seven points. I expect another great game from the Bengals to show that they are back in business.
How quickly the Baltimore backers forget about the last time the Ravens played against a significant road AFC opponent. That was the game against Denver where McNair looked horrible and tossed 3 Int's to no touchdowns. We can't forget that he has yet to beat a valid road opponent in the NFL this season and although the Bengals don't have much defense to speak of, they can certainly score much better than of the teams Baltimore has played against which should make this a good game. As much as I respect the Ravens, losing this game is not the end of the world and Cincinnati will have the advantage.
Trend of the Game: OCHO CINCO is on National TV.
Cincinnati 31, Baltimore 17