Twelve Ravens Thoughts (and a prediction) ahead of Week 2 tilt in Cincinnati

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With the Ravens looking to improve to 2-0 on the young season by snapping a three-game road losing streak in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. You have to go back to the 1965-66 Baltimore Colts to find a team facing an opponent three times in a four-game stretch. The Ravens hope to avoid losing all three like those Colts did to the Green Bay Packers. Like Gus Edwards said, “We’re very aware of each other.” 

2. Two years ago, it was a COVID-19 outbreak on top of the avalanche of injuries. Last year, it was Lamar Jackson’s knee injury. The Ravens have Jackson healthy and upright this week, but you’d like to be closer to full strength playing in Cincinnati again one of these days. 

3. Based on the early issues in pass protection last week and the state of the offensive line without Ronnie Stanley and Tyler Linderbaum, you’d expect extensive action for Patrick Ricard to help slow edge rushers Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. The quick passing game must find better rhythm this week. 

4. According to Sharp Football, Jackson averaged just 4.6 air yards per pass attempt last week, way down from his career average of 8.6. Some of that was deliberate getting the ball to Zay Flowers underneath, but the Ravens need Mark Andrews to unlock the intermediate middle portion of the field.  

5. In three games against Baltimore last year, the Bengals scored on 33.3% of their drives compared to 43.4% of drives against everyone else, per Sharp Football. Yes, Mike Macdonald appeared to have Joe Burrow’s number, but executing without Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Williams in the secondary is a different story.

6. Meanwhile, the Ravens have scored 17 and 19 points in Jackson’s last two starts against Cincinnati with the quarterback completing just 54% of his passes against Lou Anarumo’s defense. I’m not a gambling man whatsoever, but I’d bet the under, especially with Baltimore’s injuries and the Bengals’ Week 1 struggles.

7. In the wake of the Achilles injury to J.K. Dobbins, I couldn’t have been the only one pondering whether the Ravens should put Gus Edwards and Justice Hill in bubble wrap. Of course, I’m referencing all three sustaining season-ending injuries in a 13-day span two years ago. Just brutal. 

8. It’ll be interesting to see how Jackson and the Ravens try to attack Bengals safeties Dax Hill — the younger brother of Justice — and Nick Scott, who have replaced free-agent departures Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell. Andrews and a more productive running game would put more stress on the new starters. 

9. The stat sheet didn’t indicate how good Odafe Oweh was in Week 1 as Pro Football Focus credited him with seven pressures and four quarterback hits. Seeing him be disruptive against Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil was encouraging, and Baltimore needs more of that from Oweh against Orlando Brown. 

10. Macdonald loves to move Kyle Hamilton around, but how much he can do that without Williams on the field remains to be seen. Hamilton quipped how he’s built great chemistry with Geno Stone and Daryl Worley playing Call of Duty, but is such a three-safety alignment ready for Cincinnati? 

11. On Thursday, Todd Monken repeatedly used the word “drag” to describe his offense in the opener, and the coordinator wasn’t referencing short passing routes over the middle of the field. The Ravens need to be much better and cleaner offensively than they were against Houston to improve to 2-0. 

12. With Baltimore losing the final two last year and Cincinnati coming off an embarrassing loss, trash talk has been minimal. However, Roquan Smith did highlight the Bengals’ failure to score a touchdown last week and hasn’t forgotten last year’s complaints about his physicality. “If they don’t like it, who cares?” 

Prediction: Though history suggests we shouldn’t make too much of either team’s Week 1 performance, the Bengals are much healthier and playing at home, which matters in the AFC North. Burrow was very rusty after the calf injury that cost him most of the summer and played arguably the worst game of his career last week, but the Ravens aren’t just shaking the cobwebs on offense as they deal with substantial injuries and the challenges of mastering a new system. Baltimore always has a serious chance with a healthy Jackson, but being without arguably his two best offensive linemen in his first road game since last November is a lot to overcome. The Bengals won’t be firing on all cylinders either, but their offense will do enough against an undermanned secondary as the Ravens fall 24-20

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