Fighting the Injuries
FocusBoth sides have been dealt some significant injuries, with the Ravens losing Terrell Suggs for at least the majority of the season and the Bengals missing a whole host of important defenders. How both sides are able to patch over these losses will be crucial in the outcome of the game. Suggs leaves a massive void for the Ravens; accounting for a +31.1 grade in 2011 and sacking the quarterback 14 times over the course of the year. He is their best pass rusher, but it will be his play against the run that will be hardest to replace. The kind of strength Suggs has means he can’t be blocked by a tight end or back — he will just toss those smaller players aside — he demands significant attention from the offensive line and the Ravens don’t have anyone ready to replace him who you can say the same thing about. They will be relying on a platoon of players includingPaul Kruger (+7.5) to pick up the slack.
The Bengals will almost certainly be without their best edge rusher too, as Carlos Dunlap is recovering from a knee injury. Dunlap was a monster rushing the passer in limited snaps last season and the Bengals lack another on the edge who can attack in a similar fashion. Top draft pickDre Kirkpatrick is also sidelined and prevents the Bengals from beginning the season with an improved secondary. They will be relying on veterans and the return of star corner Leon Hall(+2.2) to man the defensive backfield.
Geno Atkins vs. Haloti Ngata
Obviously, these two players won’t face off against each other directly, but which player has the bigger game could go a long way to deciding the outcome. Both teams will be trying to prevent one of the most talented interior rushers in football from wreaking havoc in their backfield. The Bengals have had to replace center Kyle Cook and their entire interior has looked suspect at times in preseason. That is not the news you want to hear as you prepare to face Ngata. While the Ravens haven’t had the same issues, they are anchored in the middle by Matt Birk; another year older, another year slower, and going against one of the quickest interior players around.
In their two games last year, Geno Atkins racked-up a sack, three knockdowns and a further pair of pressures while Ngata accounted for just a single pressure across the two games. Atkins has already shown he is a handful for the Ravens to deal with, while Ngata will be going against an inferior group that handled him last year.
Dealing with A.J. Green
This game brings with it one of the most mouth-watering player matchups of the weekend. A.J. Green is one of the league’s most talented young receivers, but in his only game against the Ravens in 2011 (he missed the other injured) he caught just a pair of passes for 22 yards. That was thanks in part to the play of Lardarius Webb, himself one of the league’s best young players, who surrendered just one catch to the Bengal in the game.
The league is expecting Green to put up some massive numbers, but Webb wasn’t beaten for a touchdown all of last season despite being thrown at 90 times. He allowed just 11.8 yards per reception and, in addition to his five regular season interceptions, got his hands to another 11 passes to break them up. In the postseason alone, he allowed a QB rating of 4.5 on passes thrown his way. He doesn’t get the recognition, but across all games last season he actually out-graded the Jets’ Darrelle Revis. In short, this is likely as tough a test as A.J. Green will face all season — can he rise to the challenge, and more importantly, can Andy Dalton?
My Take on the Game—-This is an emotional week for the Ravens with the passing of Art Modell. There is a pent up fury of the Ravens fans fron the miserable ending to last year’s season. The culprits for the loss (Evans and Cundiff) have been run out of town. New weapons (Coach Caldwell, Pierce , and Rainey) have been added to the attack. QB1 is more confident then ever. 82 seems to be on the verge of stardom. But and it’s a big but we are missing the best defensive player in the NFL. It will take a new dynamic to remain at or near the top. The Ravens will be tested all year with at least 10 difficult games. Tonight won’t be easy but he Ravens offense will overcome Marvin Lewis’ schemes . Ravens 27 Bengals 17