Ravens Emerge as Bengals Biggest Threat
Sep 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett (29) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
With their big win against the Carolina Panthers, the Ravens have established themselves as the Bengals’ biggest threat in their bid to repeat as AFC North champs.
The Ravens used a balanced attack on offense while stuffing the Panthers’ once potent ground attack. The Ravens, who are known for the run-defense prowess, held the Panthers to only 67 yards on the ground while the Ravens, without Bernard Pierce, churned out 127 yards on the ground. The Panthers, lacking real potency through the air, were unable to get back into the game after falling behind 21-7 at halftime.
After nearly coming back to steal the win in Baltimore against the Bengals, the Ravens have played stellar football. They were able to dismantle the Steelers in Baltimore, 26-6, in a game where the Steelers never really presented a threat. The Ravens were again able to hold the opposing ground attack in check as Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers have presented a formidable ground offense otherwise. The Ravens then were able to earn a last second victory on the road against divisional opponent Browns. Holding the Browns scoreless in the fourth quarter, while earning just six points of their own, proved to be enough as the Ravens won the game on a Justin Tucker 32-yard field goal as time expired. Then, yesterday happened.
In a league where the pass is emphasized so much, the Ravens are 3-1, nearly 4-0, despite their 24th ranked pass defense. They have done so buy building big leads and playing tough football on the road. Steve Smith has been a savior for the offense while they’ve done a good job of limiting their turnovers to just three on the year. The defense may be allowing passing yards, but they still possess Elvis Dumervil who’s currently playing outstanding–third in the league with 3.5 sacks in four games–and have been limiting opposing team’s to just 15 points/game, which is also good for third in the league.
The next three games for Bengals and Ravens will prove vital before they meet one another in Cincinnati. The Bengals will face the Patriots at Foxborough in Week Five, then stay at home for the Panthers before traveling to Indianapolis to face the Colts in Week Seven. It may be the Bengals second-most difficult stretch of the year other than their final four weeks. Meanwhile, the Ravens travel to Indianapolis and Tampa Bay the next two weeks before facing the Falcons at home. If the Bengals can hold their game lead (in the loss column) until the team’s meet on October 26th, they’ll have given themselves a great shot a securing the division; the Bengals have proven to be stout at home having one their last 11 games at Paul Brown Stadium. To do so, the Bengals will need to win what looks to be shaping up as a defensive battle in Foxoborough–the Patriots are currently sixth in the league in points allowed/game–and then try to exploit the Panthers and Colts vulnerable defenses; the Panthers rank 27th in the league against the rush while the Colts rank 21st against the pass.
While the Bengals and Ravens have proven to be the division’s heavyweights, both teams will need to be on the lookout as neither the “lacking identity” Steelers nor the Browns have fallen by the wayside just yet. The next three weeks should be interesting as this division continues to take shape.