Ochocinco not making the trip to Baltimore

The trademark flamboyance, dancing, noise, jokes and all that incessant social networking won't be a part of Sunday's football game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals. Bengals star wide receiver Chad Ochocinco isn't making the trip to Baltimore due to an ankle injury that will require surgery to repair the damage.And that figures to make M&T Bank Stadium a quieter, tamer place

With Ochocinco not a part of this game, who will be there to taunt and threaten middle linebacker Ray Lewis? All in good nature, of course.

"To me, Chad's the toughest receiver to guard in the NFL," cornerback Chris Carr said. "I feel like he's the best. He demands a lot of attention. Sometimes you double team a lot more with guys like that."

Over the years, Ochocinco has haunted the Ravens. In 19 career games against Baltimore, he has caught 91 passes for 1,361 yards and seven touchdowns. That's an average of 4.8 receptions and 71.6 yards per game.

Making his absence even more momentous from this game is the fact that this could mark Ochocinco's final game with the Bengals. Ochocinco is due a $6 million option bonus in 2011 that could endanger his roster status, and the Bengals have been getting along well without him and Terrell Owens. Owens won't be returning to Cincinnati after ripping the entire organization.

Plus, reserve wide receivers Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell distinguished themselves during last week's upset victory that eliminated the San Diego Chargers from playoff contention. Simpson caught two touchdowns and piled up 124 receiving yards on six receptions during a 34-20 win over the Chargers last week. And Caldwell contributed 87 receiving yards as quarterback Carson Palmer tossed four touchdown passes.

So, Ochocinco's absence hasn't prompted the Ravens to let down their guard. "Just because he's not playing, doesn't mean guys can't come in that are capable," Carr said. "Simpson scored two touchdowns, Caldwell's very capable. They were just behind two really good, Hall of Fame receivers. So, it's going to change from the standpoint where maybe this guy won't be as difficult to cover, but it doesn't mean he's not a good player that you're covering. "I think it will be a big mistake if people go out there and think it's going to be a cakewalk, because they showed San Diego, who's actually a pretty good team defensively, they got blitzed. Watching that game, it was like, ‘OK, these guys are for real.' So, it's still going to be a tough game for us as a secondary."

Plus, Palmer has traditionally excelled against the Ravens. He's 9-3 as a starter against Baltimore. And Palmer has completed 59.8 percent of his throws against some good Ravens defenses for 2,899 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions for an 85.2 passer rating.

He has averaged 241.6 yards per game against Baltimore, once leading the Bengals to a 27-26 comeback win from a 20-3 fourth quarter deficit.

"When you have a quarterback like that that can make every throw, it gives wide receivers more options," Carr said. "They can run digs, they can run comebacks, they can run out routes, and some receivers don't have that luxury with some quarterbacks. They can only run certain routes. So, we're not going to go up against the best receiver in the game, but it's still going to be a challenge for us."

Still, not having Owens and Ochocinco has to have an impact. Those players have combined for 12 Pro Bowl selections and 210 career touchdowns. Simpson and Caldwell have never been to a Pro Bowl and have combined for only five career touchdowns. Ochocinco expressed confidence that the Bengals will move the football without his services. "The Ravens are the Ravens," Ochocinco told Cincinnati reporters. "They always have a great defense, but we'll be fine. Jerome will be fine. He hasn't come out of nowhere.

"He hasn't had the opportunity to play and show what he can do. He's really good. He can jump out of the gym, great hands, speed. The whole nine yards. He's a better blocker than I am at times. That's something he adds to the X position that I've never been able to do." Ochocinco finished the season with 67 receptions for 831 yards and four touchdowns. For his career in Cincinnati, Ochocinco has caught 751 passes for 10,783 yards and 66 touchdowns.

Even without Ochocinco, the Ravens expect to square off with an explosive passing game as Palmer throws the football to Simpson, wide receiver Jordan Shipley and athletic rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham.

"Obviously, a tremendous wide receiver," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said of Ochocinco. "You know, he and Owens are both great wide receivers. Anytime you take somebody like that out of their lineup, that's going to affect something.

"But the other thing is Caldwell and Shipley, they do a great job also. It's not like they're dropping off. And sometimes when you have a young receiver that's trying to make the team and trying to make his mark, sometimes he steps his game up even more."

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