Bengals offensive line vs Ravens front seven: The Bengals will want to establish the run early in this game, but are down two starters due to injury. Center Kyle Cook and guard Travelle Wharton are both down with injuries and their replacements are a huge key to the game. The Bengals catch a bit of a break due to the fact that Terrell Suggs will also miss the game with a serious injury, but Haloti Ngata is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL, and Ray Lewis is still manning the middle of the defense. The Ravens will certainly try and expose the replacements to get to Dalton and shut down the run. The Bengals RBs have a lot to prove and they will need their blockers to play well.
Torrey Smith vs Bengals secondary: The Bengals surrendered over 160 yards to Smith in the first matchup of last season, unable to contend with his speed. Smith will once again be the key matchup for a secondary that features Leon Hall returning from injury and two aging veterans in Terence Newman and Nate Clements. Reggie Nelson will likely become very important for over-the-top help to the corners. Taylor Mays doesn’t provide a lot in coverage, so the pressure will be on the CBs and Nelson.
The Prediction: The Ravens are always a tough opponent, and have found success against Cincinnati in the past year and a half. However, they have always been close games, and the Bengals have always had a shot. I don’t expect this one to be any different. Dalton will play well, but it will be a defensive matchup. I’m picking Baltimore to win a close one 21-17. Joe Flacco will find Torrey Smith deep one too many times and the Baltimore defense will be just good enough to hold on.