Ravens - Bengals: Gameday inside slant

Week 12 in the NFL sees the Baltimore Ravens (3-7) travelling to play AFCN rivals the Cincinnati Bengals (7-3). We take a quick look at what to look for on each side of the football and what each team needs to do to win.

When the Ravens have the football

Offensive coordinator Jim Fassel is liable to follow his precept of throwing the football on first down, which he implemented with some success a week ago. That could keep the Bengals' active, but undersized front seven off-balance. The Ravens will try to build a lead through field position and running the football. Using their superior size up front could be their top gambit to make this a competitive football game. It's critical to avoid third-and-long situations considering the Bengals' penchant for creating turnovers. This is Chester Taylor's time to shine and he could be a major factor if his sore ankle cooperates. In the passing game, they'll likely try to work the middle with tight end Todd Heap against the suspect safety tandem of Kevin Kaesviharn and Ifeanyi Ohalete.

Key matchup
QB Kyle Boller vs. CB Deltha O'Neal

Boller has tossed five interceptions in 11 quarters, and can't afford those misfires against a former Cal teammate who's tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions.

How the Ravens can win

1. Capitalize in the red zone. In the last meeting, Baltimore failed to score a touchdown on four trips inside the Bengals' 20 as Cincinnati scored touchdowns on all three of its red-zone opportunities.
2. Give the ball to Chester Taylor. In an expanded role, he'll face off with a run defense that's been labeled as soft and allows 121 rushing yards per contest.
3. Contain Chad Johnson. Subtract a 48-yard catch from the ledger and Johnson was held by Chris McAlister to four catches for 43 yards. They need to consistently jam him at the line to keep him in check.

When the Bengals have the football

Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski is a shrewd play-caller who thrives on identifying mismatches and granting quarterback Carson Palmer the freedom to boldly challenge secondaries. Palmer is smart enough to distribute the football to others besides All-Pro wideout Chad Johnson. T.J. Houshmandzadeh and rookie Chris Henry are legitimate threats. Palmer engineered two 80-yard drives in the first meeting against Baltimore, patiently making sound decisions against a solid secondary. The play-action fake has to be respected because of the presence of running backs Rudi Johnson and Chris Perry. Brian Billick called this the NFL's best offense, lauding Bratkowski as one of the top coordinators. If the Ravens don't generate a pass rush, this could get ugly because of Palmer's precision and arm strength.

Key matchup
LB Terrell Suggs vs. OT Levi Jones

Suggs is seeking bragging rights against his emerging former Arizona State teammate who just shut down Colts speed rusher Dwight Freeney. Suggs has two sacks in 10 games after registering 22 1/2 in his first 32 games.

How the Bengals can win
1. Throw deep. The Ravens' secondary, particularly Deion Sanders, looked vulnerable against Pittsburgh. Unlike Tommy Maddox, Carson Palmer is more than capable of taking advantage of breakdowns and old age.
2. Bait Kyle Boller into interceptions. Boller still stares down his primary read, throws off his back foot and waits too long to hit the open receiver. Accuracy remains an issue.
3. Run directly at Tommy Polley. Polley was roughed up in the last encounter by Rudi Johnson, who gashed him for 97 bruising yards on 29 carries.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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