Bengals-Ravens Preview: A Test For Both Teams

The unbeaten Bengals have a pair of quality performances under their belts. The winless Ravens lost a defensive struggle at Denver and a sloppy slugfest in Oakland, and seek to avoid a franchise-first 0-3 start against a Bengals squad that Baltimore coach John Harbaugh says is the “most talented” team in the league.

WHAT: Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-2)

WHEN: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

WHERE: at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore

TV: CBS

CINCINNATI GAME KEYS: Bengals QB Andy Dalton has leaned on the healthy return of TE Tyler Eifert to spread the ball around to a slew of targets as he has compiled a 120.3 passer rating with five touchdown passes through two games. He’s also aided by a backfield duo of physical Jeremy Hill and versatile big-play threat Giovani Bernard. The Ravens suffered through several assignment breakdowns and missed tackles in Oakland last week – their first game without OLB Terrell Suggs. Priority No. 1 is containing Hill and Bernard and creating long passing downs, but Dalton can pick apart an overmatched secondary unless Baltimore discovers a pass rush that was severely lacking against Raiders QB Derek Carr, who went off on the Ravens: 30-for-46 yards for 351 yards and three touchdowns.

BALTIMORE GAME KEYS: AFC North battles are rarely cakewalks, and Ravens QB Joe Flacco has 13 touchdown passes against 18 interceptions in 14 career meetings against the Bengals. He also lacks a vertical threat to stretch the field and keep the Bengals’ secondary honest. Flacco was able to chew up yards between the 20s in Oakland, but Baltimore has scored touchdowns on just two of seven red-zone trips through two close losses. After trailing early in both games, the Ravens would like to get RB Justin Forsett (111 yards on 29 carries) untracked earlier and use the ground game to help protect the wavering defense.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals WR A.J. Green vs. Ravens CB Jimmy Smith. Many have attempted to classify Smith as one of the best young cover men in the game. For that to become reality, he has to be more consistent against the elite receivers such as Green. Smith was solid in the opener, but was beat by impressive Raiders rookie WR Amari Cooper for a 68-yard score.

BENGALS FAST FACTS: Green has a touchdown reception in each of the past three meetings. Cincinnati is No. 5 in the NFL in total defense, giving up exactly 300 total yards per game, and No. 3 in scoring defense with an average yield of 16 points.

RAVENS FAST FACTS: Receiver Steve Smith last week become the fourth-oldest player in NFL history to post a 150-yard receiving game. Baltimore is sporting a 45-11 home record under coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens are 24th in the league in scoring defense (28.0).

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