Baltimore Ravens' scouting report

NICKEL PACKAGE 1.How will the Baltimore Ravens attack the Cincinnati Bengals? The Ravens' offense doesn't have a crisis, certainly not ranked third in the NFL in total offense. And they are well-balanced with the fifth-ranked rushing offense and the sixth-ranked passing attack.

A week ago, though, in a loss to the New England Patriots, the Ravens practically abandoned the run with a season-low 17 rushes for 116 yards while quarterback Joe Flacco launched a season-high 47 passes. One reason why that happened was situational circumstances. The Ravens had fallen behind. However, they seemed to overdo it in terms of throwing too often and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron practically forgot about his running backs. The Ravens are expected to get back to basics with a meat-and-potatoes approach against the Bengals today at M&T Bank Stadium. Last year, the Ravens averaged 188 rushing yards in sweeping the season series against the Bengals. The Bengals have the 14th-ranked run defense, allowing 103 yards per game. They have surrendered at least 93 yards to an opposing back over the past two weeks.

2. Will rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher be up to the task?
Oher is going to be blocking defensive end Antwan Odom, who leads the NFL with eight sacks. This is a doubly hard assignment for Oher because it's his first game starting at left tackle in the NFL as far as the regular season.

3. Can the Ravens avoid the turnover bug?
The Ravens' loss to the Patriots was impacted heavily by a lost fumble on the opening kickoff and Joe Flacco tossing an interception in the red zone. For the season, Flacco has three interceptions against eight touchdown passes. The Ravens hav e fumbled five times, losing two.

4. Are the Bengals going to strike late?
Everyone remembers Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer's epic comeback win that he engineered against Baltimore years ago. This season, he has led the Bengals to two dramatic wins where he manufactured scoring drives at the end of the fourth quarter or in overtime. Palmer's ability in the clutch is a big factor.

5. Will the change to Lardarius Webb on kickoff returns create a spark?
Webb is extremely fast with a 4.37 clocking in the 40-yard dash. He excelled at breaking long returns at Nicholls State and appeared to be explosive on his 38-yard return against New England. This is his big audition. If he impresses again, he can lock down the kickoff returner job for=2 0the remainder of the season.

KEY MATCHUP
Ravens CB Domonique Foxworth vs. Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco
Foxworth gets no relief one week after being beaten for a touchdown by New England Patriots star Randy Moss. Now, he has to face off with the flamboyant Ochocinco. Ochocinco has called Foxworth "Vivica Foxworth" this week after actress Vivica A. Foxworth. It's critical that Foxworth not allow Ochocinco to get into his head or behind him in the secondary. Ochocinco leads the Bengals with 17 receptions for three touchdowns. And he has caught 75 career passes against Baltimore for 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns. Ochocinco's speed and cutting ability on his patterns remains impressive. Foxworth has the speed to keep up, but will need sound technique and mental toughness to contain Ochocinco. He certainly won't lack for motivation.

KEY MATCHUP
Ravens OT Michael Oher vs. Bengals DE Antwan Odom
Left tackle Jared Gaither is likely out with a neck injury, so Oher will shift over from the right side and take on the assignment of blocking NFL sacks leader Antwan Odom. Oher has a formidable task in blocking Odom, who's tied with Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil for the league lead with eight sacks. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Odom tied Eddie Edwards' franchise record with five sacks against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 20. It was the most sacks in an NFL game since New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora's six sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 30, 2007. Oher has the mobility, aggressiveness and technique to square off with Odom, but this marks his toughest test since being drafted in the first round. The Ravens are confident in Oher's blocking skills, but this is an extremely difficult matchup.

THREE DOWNS WITH ...
Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap
1.On if he envisioned this game having high stakes: "It's early in the season. We expect everything. You can't go into the season and expect one team to be one way. It's always going to be different. Last year, everybody was expecting them to be good. They've got a lot of the same guys, and they've added some good players as well. They're very talented."

2. On the Bengals' defense: "They've got guys healthy. Guys are stepping up and making plays. I mean, you watch Antwan Odom and how many sacks he's had. And then you watch their young linebackers, and they're flying around making plays as well. "They're not playing as young as they are. They've got some high draft picks all the way around the board, guys that are capable of making big plays. We expect their best every time they come here, just like they expect ours.

3. On how he reacts to Chad Ochocinco: "Chad and I go way back, so I just laugh at him. I played against him in college. I've seen all of his antics over the years. Nothing's new to me, nothing surprises me. In fact, I just wait for what he's going to do next and laugh at it. He's going to do something crazy, it's just you don't know what it is."

THREE DOWNS WITH ...
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco
1. On his matchup with cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington: "Oh, Vivica? Vivica Foxworth? I don't know man, just playing around with the first name. I play around with those guys on Twitter, but man I have much respect for those two. Those two are really, really good cornerbacks. I'm really looking forward to that matchup."

2. On the turnaround: "We've been exciting, man. We've been plugging and it's just a new attitude. Our mental state is superb right now. The defense is really saving us big time. We've been superb in the clutch. We just have to find that consistency where we can be good through all four quarters, and it would make these games a lot easier and not nail-biters toward the end."

3. On his friendship with Ray Lewis: "That's my spiritual father, man. When things are going wrong here, especially at work, especially last year, I know he got sick of me because things were going so tough, and the only person I had to turn to was him, that really understood the game of football, the business side of it, which got to me. He's really close to me. There's no other way to explain."


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