The Cincinnati Bengals stumbled out of the gate with an opening loss at Cleveland, but now they have a chance to bounce back against a Baltimore Ravens team hobbling into Week 2.
Baltimore collected a 25-9 win over Houston in its opener but the victory did not come without cost, as the Ravens will be coming to Paycor Stadium on Sunday with several injury concerns.
The Ravens lost running back J.K. Dobbins to a torn Achilles. Safety Marcus Williams was lost to a torn pectoral muscle, and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) and center Tyler Linderbaum (ankle) both suffered sprains that leave them “week to week,” according to coach John Harbaugh in his press conference Monday.
Dobbins is out for the season, and Williams will be out for a substantial portion of the year, if not the entirety.
Baltimore already had injury concerns with cornerback Marlon Humphrey and tight end Mark Andrews. Harbaugh said Humphrey, who has been dealing with a foot injury, “has a shot” to return this week, and Andrews’ availiability will depend on how practices go this week as he was limited all last week by a quad issue.
Those two possibly returning would be a big boost for the Ravens, but the Bengals are catching them at a good time. Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said Monday he believed his team got through its opening loss at Cleveland in good shape, health wise, and he expects the Bengals will have no issues getting back on track to avoid an 0-2 start for a second straight season.
“Our guys are in a great place,” Taylor said. “We’ve played enough games as a team together to understand what kind of team we have and to see that even on film like (Sunday) and still be encouraged and still be motivated to move on play in front of a great home crowd. One thing I will say that I will continue this week is our home field is such an advantage especially early in the season with new players on a team and new communication. That’s what we’re looking really forward to is playing in front of our home crowd and getting those advantage with the noise the way that our fans always turn up and support us that way that’s going to be a great advantage we can have this Sunday at 1.”
Cincinnati’s offense isn’t the only one that will be looking to get into a better rhythm in Week 2.
Baltimore did enough for a win in the opener but offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s new system proved to be still very much a work in progress, and the injuries on the offensive line don’t help. Against Houston, the running backs weren’t as involved in the passing game as has been the case in previous years, Lamar Jackson stayed in the pocket more than expected, the pace was quicker but choppy at times because of penalties and the Ravens were working mainly in 11 personnel (one running back, three wide receivers, one tight end).
The biggest difference was the lack of explosive plays, as Baltimore had just 265 yards of total offense and averaged just 4.6 yards per play with only two plays grossing over 20 yards. Jackson’s legs, not surprisingly, accounted for some of the biggest plays, as he finished with six carries for 38 yards. He completed 17 of 22 passes for 169 yards and no touchdowns, with one interception.
Newcomers Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers showed well in their Ravens debuts and will be players to watch Sunday, along with fellow receiver Rashod Bateman. Beckham had two catches for 37 yards, including a 29-yard grab, and Flowers, a rookie, made nine catches for 78 yards. With Dobbins out, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill will see more carries. Baltimore also has an asset in kicker Justin Tucker, who is one of the best in the league.
Defensively, the Ravens are still a team that could cause a lot of problems, especially if Joe Burrow is still working through his calf injury. They produced five sacks Sunday against Houston and have traditionally been a strong blitzing defense.
“Baltimore is not as aggressive in their coverage structure (as Cleveland), but they do a really nice job playing the coverages they play,” Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. “They’re disciplined. It’s a really smart scheme. Their pressures are really intelligent. They do the right things at the right times. And, they got good players doing it. Both those linebackers (Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith) are spectacular, and they got a front that’s doesn’t have Myles Garrett, but they got a bunch of guys that can play. So yeah, they’re good. They present a different type of challenge. And our games against them are always tough.”
The Bengals have won four of the last five matchups, including twice at home last year with a 24-17 win in an AFC Wild Card Playoff.
Ravens at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 1530, 102.7, 104.7