Lets go around the league and see what the experts have to say about the Bengals-Ravens game tomorrow:
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King: Ravens 23-20
I think the Bengals’ best chance to win the game is on special teams. Last week in Seattle, Cundiff missed two field goals and he was short on a 50-yarder. Cundiff short on a 50-yarder? Plus, David Reed fumbled two kickoffs, so they basically gave them 12 points with the missed field goals and short fields. Flacco has played great, but the Bengals always seem to play him pretty well. But now he’s going to be facing them without Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph at cornerback and the vital question is how much do they get from Nate Clements and Kelly Jennings? Is it 90 percent of that, 85 percent? If they get good pressure, it ought to help and they’ve been able to get some this season.
Not having Green is a big factor. I think the Bengals have to find ways to win on special teams and not make any mistakes. The Ravens are tough at home.
The Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston: Ravens 20-17
The Ravens have been very inconsistent this year when it comes to getting up for games. They’ve played the good teams good and the bad teams bad and look what’s happened. They sweep Pittsburgh and lose to Tennessee, Jacksonville and Seattle. That was a bad loss last week in Seattle. They had a chance to take control of the division and let it slip away. But they’ve got the edge this week. Everybody has as an edge this week. John Harbaugh has got one. They know what it means. First place and they’re at home, so I don’t think they’re going to come out flat. I think you’ll see a ton of Ray Rice on Sunday. They know they can’t win many games giving him five touches a game. Every player but Flacco came out and said they’ve got to get Rice the ball. The thing is, Marvin has done a good job shutting down Rice. (The Bengals aren’t on Rice’s list of top 10 yardage days but the Steelers are on it twice.) And the Ravens struggle against 4-3 defenses. They don’t see them very often and when they get behind, they panic and start throwing the ball.
They’re with it this week and they’re going to be committed to making sure Rice gets the ball.
ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley: Ravens 24-21
Both teams are going to stop the run. They won’t be able to run it on each other and I think it’s going to come down to the quarterbacks. With Green in the lineup, the Bengals have a much better chance downfield. Five of Dalton’s interceptions have come in the fourth quarter, so I think that gives an edge to Flacco. If there’s a knock on Dalton that would be it, and Ed Reed has had some big games against the Bengals. The Ravens don’t seem to play with a lot of confidence against 4-3 defenses and the Bengals have a good pass rush. They’ve done a decent job protecting Flacco (13th in the NFL allowing sacks per pass) with Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and Michael Oher now on the right side, but Oher is still a better run blocker than pass protector. The matchup I’m looking forward to is Whitworth against Suggs. They’re two of the top players in the league and they mean so much to what happens in this game.
Neither defense gives up a lot of points. It’s going to come down to a tight game in the fourth quarter and it’s going to come down to which quarterback makes a play.
CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge: Ravens 24-16
I think the Bengals have done a great job setting themselves up for the future with the drafting of Dalton and Green. They’ve got a Pro Bowl playmaker to go with a top quarterback and they’re in better position than a lot of teams that have been in that spot, like, say, St. Louis. I have to be honest with you. At the beginning of the year, I thought they were going to be one of the worst teams in the league. But they play great defense, and the new offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, has done a great job handling Dalton. But this is a tough game for them to win. The Ravens are coming off a bad loss on the road and they play so well at home under Harbaugh. They play well against the better teams and the Bengals are a better team. I really like Dalton, but this is a tough game for a rookie quarterback on the road. Look at the points the Ravens give up at home (13.3 under Harbaugh, 14.9 since 2003) and they’re going to be coming at the Bengals with everything.
If Green doesn’t play, that takes away the Bengals’ best threat against one of the league’s top defenses. And the Ravens are a different team at home.
CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco: Ravens 21-17
Both these teams lost last week, which makes this an even bigger division game. The Ravens have bounced back in a big way after losses, so that doesn’t bode well for the Bengals. Both these teams are good on defense, which should make for a low-scoring game. The Ravens win it, but the Bengals keep it close.
NFL.com’s Albert Breer: Ravens 24-10
Really, the biggest noticeable flaw in Baltimore is how it comes down after big wins. This being a big game, my feeling is the Ravens will be just fine.
NFL.com’s Dave Dameshek: Ravens 16-13
Baltimore, coming off a loss in Seattle. Now, they are going to win in a tight one- in an AFC North critical battle as they wage war for the division crown this year. The Ravens get it done, 16-13 in a very close one, they pull it out.
NFL Network’s Playbook Crew: Matt Millen – Bengals. Solomon Wilcots – Ravens. Joe Theismann – Bengals.
ESPN’s Countdown Live Crew: Mark Schlereth – Bengals. Marcellus Wiley – Ravens.
ESPN’s Accuscore: Ravens 60% favorite.
Finally, the ESPN staff:
Topics: Ravens Pregame