Six weeks are in the books for the 2021 NFL season and the Cincinnati Bengals are off to a great start with a 4-2 record as they currently sit firmly in the AFC playoff picture. However, their biggest challenge of the season may be coming up on Sunday when they go on the road to face the 5-1 Baltimore Ravens, who currently sit at the top of the AFC North and hold the number one spot in the conference.
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens started off slow, losing to the Las Vegas Raiders in a Week 1 overtime battle, but have been rolling ever since, stringing together five straight wins.
In other words, the Ravens are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. This will be a great measuring stick game for the Bengals, as a win could upgrade them from just a fringe playoff team to contenders for the AFC, a win would put them at the number one seed in the conference after seven weeks.
In the following slides, I will take a look at some bold predictions for this huge divisional matchup.
Ja’Marr Chase looks mortal for the first time this season
Through six weeks, perhaps the most pleasant surprise for the Bengals has been rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and how seamlessly he has transitioned to the NFL. After a preseason that was filled with noise about drops, Chase has been the league’s definitive top rookie wide receiver and one of the best, if not the best, deep threats in the NFL.
Unfortunately, Chase is bound to have a dud of a game sooner or later. Franchise quarterback Joe Burrow has connected with his rookie wide receiver on a pass of 34 yards or more in each of the Bengals’ six contests up to this point, against a shutdown corner like Marlon Humphrey, that streak may finally come to an end.
If Chase gets followed by Humphrey all day or draws double teams for the majority of the game, Burrow may have to look elsewhere when dropping back to pass. However, that may not be such a bad thing. Stud wide receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd have not gotten the production this season that many expected them to and the Bengals could benefit from getting them involved, especially if Chase is getting all the Ravens’ focus.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is Chase’s least productive game of his career up to this point, although the value that he could bring by drawing the majority of defense’s focus may just be what helps the Bengals get their offense rolling.