With the Ravens trying to move back above the .500 mark against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. With Baltimore starting 0-2 at home and facing the AFC North rival that won both meetings by a combined 44 points last year, this is an “under the hood” game for John Harbaugh’s team. You really have to wonder about the Ravens’ psyche if they drop this one.
2. Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense garner the attention, but it’s been the Cincinnati defense playing at a higher level so far. The Bengals rank eighth in yards per pass attempt allowed and seventh in yards per pass attempt allowed. That group has carried over its late 2021 improvement.
3. Nose tackle D.J. Reader’s absence hurts Cincinnati’s run defense, but the Baltimore offensive line still must deal with edge rushers Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. While Hendrickson is coming off a Pro Bowl season, Hubbard currently ranks fourth in the NFL in pressures, per Next Gen Stats.
4. Though Harbaugh threw out a cursory “hopeful” regarding the Week 5 status of Rashod Bateman, the Ravens being without their top wide receiver would be bad news in a matchup with no shortage of offensive firepower on the opposing side. More depth at such an important position would be nice.
5. The Bengals certainly don’t have that problem with Marlon Humphrey noting how dynamic Cincinnati’s wide receiver group became with Tee Higgins’ arrival in 2020 and Ja’Marr Chase’s monster rookie campaign last season. Of course, Ravens fans know all too well that slot receiver Tyler Boyd isn’t too shabby either.
6. Those weapons are why it’s critical to pressure Burrow, which won’t be as easy from the edge if Justin Houston misses a second straight game with a groin injury. Despite offseason additions, the Cincinnati offensive line remains poor, meaning Justin Madubuike and Calais Campbell could have big nights.
7. One of the best things Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor could do for the Ravens is keep running Joe Mixon into a brick wall. Per Sharp Football, the Bengals rank 10th in the NFL in first-down rushing rate (55.3%) and last in yards per carry on first-down runs (3.0).
8. It’ll be interesting to see how many two-high safety looks Baltimore gives Burrow since he’s averaging just 6.3 yards per attempt with no touchdown passes against Cover 2 so far this season, per Sharp Football. Mike Macdonald certainly has plenty of tape from last year of what not to do.
9. As Ronnie Stanley practices fully for a second straight week, Lamar Jackson noted how he’s “so used to him being that guy who protects the blind side.” Including the playoffs, Jackson has started 57 games in his career with Stanley playing in only 30 of them.
10. After missing time during camp and the season’s opening month, James Proche is 100% and “ready to go,” according to Harbaugh. Perhaps the slot receiver gets an opportunity if Bateman doesn’t play, but you have to wonder if the coaching staff is a big believer in him at this point.
11. The Ravens will face Hayden Hurst for the first time since the 2018 first-round pick was traded in 2020. His career hasn’t taken off how he hoped, but Hurst will want to make an impact against his former team. I’d much rather account for him than Mark Andrews, however.
12. Baltimore has trailed for 14 seconds in two losses — don’t forget the Ravens trailed New England for just over nine minutes, however — and in a league-low 8.7% of its offensive snaps overall. The Ravens have lost seven straight one-score games dating back to last December. That’s life in the NFL.