1:00 ET @ M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
Both the Bengals and the Ravens come into this week 5 matchup tied atop the AFC North standings with identical 3-1 records.
On one side, the Baltimore Ravens have dominated their opponents in their three wins. They put up lofty numbers on the Chiefs, Browns, and on the San Diego Chargers. The Ravens were rolling after those first three weeks but hit the wall that is the New England Patriots. Even though they had a hard fought game, they were outnumbered, and took the first L of the year. Without going into too much detail on that game (I did here), I feel Rodney Harrison summed it up the best on Football Night in America - "Tom Brady, if you are listening, take off your skirt and put on your slacks." The Ravens have made their presence known on both sides of the ball as they come in 5th in offense (3rd in the rush) and 8th in defense (1st against the rush).
Then on the other side, the Bengals have a completely unimpressive 3-1 record. In their three wins, they have a combined margin of victory of 13 points. They beat the Packers by a touchdown, the Steelers by 3 with a late 4th quarter drive, and the Browns by a measly field goal in overtime (a team Baltimore beat by 31). Even with this 3-1 record, the Bengals rank 21st in total offense and 17th in total defense.
Baltimore Ravens Team vs. the Referees
After the Ravens, in some peoples' eyes, lost to the Patriots because of the calls of the referees, they may have another one of those games on their hands. The Ravens drew a short stick and got Jeff Triplette and his crew for the game on Sunday? What does that mean? The Baltimore Sun's Jamison Hensley breaks it down:
"When evaluating this Sunday's referee, Jeff Triplette, and his crew, the Ravens have to be careful about grabbing the Bengals. Triplette's crew led the NFL last season with 41 holding calls in 15 games (2.7 per game). Through three games this season, this crew has thrown the flag about 11 times per game, which is the league average. This officiating group has called 11 false starts, seven holding penalties (five on offense and two on defense) and three defensive pass-interference penalties. It's interesting to note that Triplette's crew has yet to call a roughing-the-passer penalty."
Antwan Odom vs. Jared Gaither/Oniel Cousins
Surprisingly, Antwan Odom leads the league in sacks at this point in the year. It doesn't take long to see why when you look at his game log. He recorded 5 sacks against an obviously weak Green Bay offensive line. If you take away the 5 sack game, he only has 3 in three games.
He will be going against the weak point of the Baltimore line as he lines up counter of the left tackle. Right now, it is uncertain who will be playing the left tackle position for the Ravens. Jared Gaither had to be carted off the field last week with a neck injury and, very miraculously, could start this week (game time decision). His replacement would be Oniel Cousins whom is not very solid on the line.
Players to Watch:
Jared Gaither - Left Tackle - Baltimore Ravens
As I mentioned before, Gaither had to be carted off the field in New England with a neck injury during the loss to the Patriots. It should be interesting to see if Gaither is able to play after that. Coach Harbaugh has said Jared is a game time decision which is amazing. Gaither is the worst starter on the line for the Ravens, but he is still needed.
Chad Johnson - Wide Receiver - Cincinnati Bengals
(Please do, NFL)
Yes, I said Chad Johnson. Not Chad Ochocinco. I refuse to call him by a name that is a joke and a mockery to his family. Chad EightFive doesn't make sense anyway.
But, all this is besides the point. Chad Johnson has said that if...if... he scores this week against Baltimore, he is guaranteeing another fancy celebration. He has said he will do a tribute to Ricky Bobby - the main character in Will Ferrell's movie Talladegha Nights. He will mimic the scene where Ricky believes he is on fire after a crash.
At first, it sounded pretty stupid to me. But, after watching the clip again, it might actually be funny. I still refuse to allow the fool in the endzone though.
It will also be nice to see how the Ravens corners are able to shut down Chad Johnson. The went into the game against New England with a game plan to shut down Randy Moss. They did it very well until they went away from that plan and gave Moss single coverage that resulted in a touchdown. I wouldn't be surprised to see the same thing here as they try to force the ball away from Chad Johnson and more to Laveranues Coles and Daniel Coats. But the real plan is to make the Bengals run the ball.
Yeah, sure, the Bengals are tied for first place in the division with the Ravens; but in reality, they got lucky three times. They are going up against the toughest opponent of their season so far and luck won't help them much here.
The deciding factor here is the Bengals' performance last week against the Browns. They had to take that game into OT just to win the game. The Baltimore Ravens beat that same Browns team by 31 points. They allowed the Browns to score as many points as the Bengals ended up beating them by last week.
The Ravens are very hungry after last week and will, without a doubt, refuse to lose this game. They will come out fired up in front of the home crowd. The Ravens win easily and record their first shutout of the year with the score of 31-0.
Big News: Just about all season, I have been calling for the Ravens to bring back long time kicker Matt Stover to stabilize the special teams. This passed Thursday, Matt Stover made an appearance at my school. When asked about playing this season, he said that he had offers from the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets. He added that he would most likely play for the Jets.