Game 1 – Bengals at Ravens Pre-Game Thoughts
Each week this season, Stripe Hype will provide a “Pre-Game Thoughts” piece. There are write-ups that might offer more statistics, or more extensive details on certain players or guidance on how to wager but Stripe Hype’s piece will be designed to offer the Benglas fan some insight as to what to expect from their beloved orange and black attack. Enjoy.
Game 1 – 2008 Bengals Season
Bengals at Ravens, September 7, 2008 – 1pm EST
How will the Bengals Offense Look?
Stripe Hype –Carson needs to set a tempo with a steady and expected mix of no-huddle and key audibles to get the aging Ravens D on their heels early. Everything about this offense flows through Carson’s head. If there is any question about Carson being rattled after his nose was cracked as he was abused by the Saints, it will show early. Carson has traditionally played well versus the Ravens, expect him to keep with tradition. Watch his feet (planted and solid or dancing and edgy?) for clues.
Stripe Hype – This is tough to judge this early because I think the success of entire Bengals season hinges on the run-game. Perry, Watson and Dorsey will have their work cut out for them against the Ravens D, no matter how aged they are at this point. Fact is, the Bengals backfield must get going and find the right ratio of carries between the 3 players. The Ravens D will be making an effort to come out physical and test Perry’s toughness. How he reacts will be telling.
Stripe Hype – Oh jeez, where to begin? Maybe in the middle with Mr. Ghiaciuc. The learning curve at Center is steep but Eric has found a way to turn this curve into an un-scalable cliff. His play needs to be more consistent or look for the Bengals to seriously consider juggling the line-up. LT Levi Jones needs to show any health issues are gone against the Ravens D, who will work very hard to disrupt. Guards Whitworth and Williams are expected to be solid, which leaves RT Andrews as the other question mark. Earned/Handed the starting spot, he must immediately show he has what it takes to carry on the tradition of high-level play by the now departed Willie Anderson. How Andrews embraces his role and performs will be scrutinized in light of the decision to cut Anderson.
Stripe Hype –What to believe? Chad is 100% (curious as he has a torn labrum), TJ is 100% (curious as he has missed most of pre-season with a tweaked hammy), Chatman is 100% (despite only being 100% maybe 15% of his time with the team) while Holt, Simpson and Caldwell (foot injury) round out the roster. Depth/Health at WR is a serious concern and will be this season. Expect the Ravens to be physical with Chad and TJ to see how they react.
TE play will suddenly be closely watched as newcomer Utecht is expected to figure in the game plan each week. Having Utecht as a functional piece of the passing game could prove to be another way that Carson can hurt you. Whether O-Coordinator Bratkowski understand this and the extent of which he utilizes Utecht will also be closely watched.
How will the Bengals Defense Look?
Stripe Hype – Until they exhibit better play, this is still a weak spot on the D. DT Peko is an athlete, DE Geathers has game but another newcomer DE Odom has been hurt and limited. DT Thornton starts another year, for reasons unknown to us, and is a weakness that is often exploited. DT depth is a very raw Shirley and recent addition Harris. Both are big guys but very inexperienced. DE depth is also thin, with Rucker and Fanaene, guys who might see rotational play given Odom’s recently “un-booted” foot. The Raven O-line has health issues but the recent addition of former Bengals Willie Anderson could go a long way to restoring some semblance of steady play.
Stripe Hype – What a change since last year… ‘07 saw the Bengals start Safeties and Defensive Ends at LB, sign league cast-off’s to start the same week and very little continuity from game to game. Taking Keith Rivers #9 overall in the draft was the first step in the direction of long-term LB play. No longer counting on Landon Johnson (FA to Carolina) to lead the team in tackles or Brooks to disappoint, this group has new players in Blackstock and Brandon Johnson from AZ and carry-over with Jeanty, Mays and Jones. If for no other reason, this squad will be better because their health and talent level is better. With McGahee dinged up, the Ravens will employ rookie Ray Rice to get the run game going. Bengal backers should show their improvement early but will be challenged by elite FB Lorenzo Neal.
Stripe Hype – Having two r1 picks starting on the corners should make new D-Coordinator Mike Zimmer feel pretty good. Having the nickel back be one David Jones, a r5 virtual rookie, might cause Coach Zimmer some concern. Also, safety play will boil down to how well SS Dexter Jackson and FS Marvin White can support the run without forgetting about their corner support responsibilities. The Ravens WR’s are not exactly game-changers but Derrick Mason is a savvy veteran who knows how to get open and exploit coverage issues and Todd Heap is a 3rd down conversion machine. Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco getting the start means the Bengals DB’s will be licking their chops hoping for tipped/errant passes to convert to turnovers. Here’s to hoping the Bengals D does not make him look like the next Dan Marino.
How will the Special Teams Look?
Stripe Hype- Ho-hum. Taking a cynical perspective on this is rough but when we think of Bengals ST’s, we basically hold our breath. Very little to be excited about here, except maybe Shayne Graham being a reliable leg. Let’s just hope they can get decent kick coverage on the Ravens and not give up any big plays. Fingers crossed.
Stadium/Fans – M&T Bank Stadium is a relatively hostile place, with the Baltimore fans being loud and annoying. Not as loud as Arrowhead and not as dangerous as Philly or Oakland but certainly unpleasant. An early lead will do wonders to shut their yaps. Putting the hurt on Flacco will provoke the boo-birds early.
Weather – With Hurricane/Tropical Storm Hannah sputtering, the outlook calls for partly sunny, 86F with high humidity, i.e. hot and humid. Will we see Chad Ocho Crampo? Probably sooner than later.
Historically – Ravens lead the series 13-11.
Prognosis: Bengals 31 – Ravens 20