The Ravens come into Paul Brown Stadium Sunday for the 1 p.m. home opener flexing their muscles from Monday night’s street fight in which they put a black-and-blue sock in Jets coach Rex Ryan’s mouth with a 10-9 TKO over the Jets that was an AFC North game in an ugly disguise.
They look as big and bad as ever. Ray Lewis looks like he’s 25. So does Touraj Houshmandzadeh. After watching the Bengals unable to cover Pats rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, a healthy Todd Heap gives you the cold sweats. You still have to sell me on Joe Flacco, though. But hand it to him. He didn’t make the big screwup and that’s how Carson Palmer is going to have to win Sunday.
That’s why they should lay off Mark Sanchez in New York. He gave his team a chance to win in the last two minutes, and that is saying something if you’re handling the ball every snap against that voracious defense that eats quarterbacks alive and spits out points for their offense.
Yeah, Sanchez’s numbers were awful. But he didn’t pull a sack-fumble and he didn’t throw a pick-six and that’s saying something against those guys. If Jets tight end Dustin Keller doesn’t think he’s in Teaneck on that last fourth down, who knows what happens?
Of course, the Jets never tested the questionable Baltimore secondary like the Bengals should. But then, the Bengals can’t go hog wild and try to find out and get Palmer rolled.
Cedric Benson. Cedric Benson. Cedric Benson. After watching the Ravens absolutely stone last year’s top NFL running attack Monday night you have to admire even more Benson’s two 100-yard games against the Ravens last year. So even though Chris Carr is the third corner, the Bengals can’t go flinging it. If there is one game that tests their commitment to the run, this is it.
Everyone is under the heat in Bengaldom. Outcoached. Outprepared. Outfocused. And that is just what ESPN radio is saying. The Bengals are hearing it all and reading it all this week and they no doubt expect it after being down, 31-3, 12 seconds into the second half. No other team in the NFL Sunday shocked their fans more on Opening Weekend.
But if there is a coaching staff that knows how to deal with the Baltimore defense, it is this one. Palmer is 8-3 against the Ravens and they have always seemed to find a way to protect him against what so many other teams find so unprotectable. And Marvin Lewis is 5-2 against his old team at PBS.
Wouldn’t the no-huddle be interesting against a defense that literally comes to town Sunday?
There are 345 reasons to see a little more no-huddle from the Bengals. They all belong to the frame of highly-regarded Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata, the man that chewed up the Jets offensive line for a key sack of Sanchez late in the game. Either get him off the field or make him do about four 10-yard sprints in a space of two minutes.
What kind of reception will Houshmandzadeh get Sunday? Who knows? Just make sure he doesn’t get about eight receptions and let him take over the middle. If the Bengals secondary plays like it did last year, that’s a hell of a matchup. Who knows Housh better? If they play like they did Sunday against Wes Welker, it is game, set, match. But we know this. He won’t be going against any rookie corners.
A lot of times, openers can be mirages. The Bengals aren’t that bad and the Ravens aren’t that good.
It is somewhere in between. The question is, how far? In the AFC North, it is about the length of a bruise.
Tags: look at ravens-bengals, ravens preview
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 13 Comments »