Baltimore Ravens Week 5 Preview

The Baltimore Ravens got back on track last week with a commanding 31-17 win over the Washington Football Team in the ‘Battle of the Beltway’.

They got bounce-back performances from several different players on both sides of the ball and will now turn their attention to the Cincinnati Bengals who are coming to town on Sunday for an AFC North showdown at M&T Bank Stadium at 1 PM eastern standard time on CBS.

The Bengals notched their first win of the season in Week Four with a 33-25 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and have first overall pick Joe Burrow, who has looked impressive in every game this season win or lose, leading them.

Here is a detailed breakdown of the matchup including potential X factors, who will likely be out with an injury for each team, and a final outcome prediction.

What’s at stake:

The Ravens will be looking to keep pace with the 3-0 Pittsburgh Steelers in the race for the division crown with a win since their archrivals. The Steelers had their Week 4 matchup with the Tennessee Titans postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak but will be back in action this week in an interconference with the Philadelphia Eagles.

If Baltimore beats Cincinnati and the Philly hands Pittsburgh their first loss of the season, the Ravens will supplant the Steelers for first place in the AFC North standings.

The 1-2-1 Bengals haven’t lost a game by more than five points and played the aforementioned Eagles to a tie in Week Three. They could easily be 4-0 but if they were able to pull off the upset over the Ravens, they would still be in the last place in the division standings but would no longer have a losing record and improve to 2-2-1.

Who might not suit up:

The Ravens had a lot of players listed on the first injury report of the week but the biggest and most notable name was quarterback Lamar Jackson who did not practice in consecutive days for the first time in his three-year career with what was reported as a minor knee injury and illness.

However, after being held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday, the reigning league MVP made his triumphant return to the practice field on Friday and is “100 percent” ready to go for Sunday said Head Coach John Harbaugh.

“What happened was Wednesday his knee just felt sore. He just felt like he needed to try to rest it a little bit,” Harbaugh said.

“Then Thursday he was ready to go but he got sick. His stomach was really bothering him, so he had to go home. I don’t know if he ate something bad or what it was, but we all get something like that periodically. It was just strange timing on that whole deal. But he’s good to go.”

While having your starting quarterback miss two days of practice heading into a matchup with a division foe is far from ideal. Harbaugh is confident in Jackson’s ability to perform at a high level since he was still involved in every other aspect of the preparation process and spent some additional time with Quarterbacks Coach James Urban.

“Of course, you always want the reps, but sometimes you can’t always get the reps,” Harbaugh said. “It probably stands out more with a quarterback than with other positions, but we’ll just keep rolling and we have a lot of reps stacked up. He’ll go play the game as best he can. I’m very confident that he’ll play well.”

The Ravens might have to reshuffle their offensive line for the second week in a row but this time it won’t be as dramatic. Rookie Tyre Phillips who has started the first four games at right guard has not practiced all week with shoulder and is listed as doubtful to play on Sunday.

Against Washington, the Ravens had to flip starting right tackle Orlando Brown Jr over to the left side and insert veteran DJ Fluker into his vacated spot because First-Team All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley was a surprise addition on the inactive list hours before the game.

The offensive lien held surprisingly well in Stanley’s absence despite going up against a talented defensive front. Fluker will likely be called upon once again if Phillips can’t go and start at the spot that he competed to win in training camp.

All of the Ravens’ other players listed on Friday’s injury report were full or limited participants in practice or were held out for non-injury reasons like in defensive tackle Derek Wolfe’s case, but all of them are expected to play.

The listed as questionable but expected to play list also includes tight end Mark Andrews (thigh), defensive back/linebacker Anthony Levine Sr. (abdomen), wide receiver Chris Moore (thigh/finger), cornerback Marcus Peters (thigh), and cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee), tight end Nick Boyle (thigh), wide receiver Marquise Brown (knee), quarterback Lamar Jackson (knee/illness), defensive tackle Justin Madubuike (knee), Stanley (shoulder/hip) and defensive tackle Broderick Washington (illness).

I know that may seem like a lot, but the Ravens are expecting everyone on the injury report list outside of Phillips to be available to play this week.

As for the Bengals, starting cornerback Mackensie Alexander (hamstring) and speedy wide receiver John Ross (illness) are listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game.

Their starting running back and leading rusher, Joe Mixon, has been a limited participant in practice for the last two days with a shin injury and would be a huge loss for their offense and chances of pulling off an upset if he weren’t able to play or was near full go to play Sunday.

One player that Cincinnati is slated to have available for the first time this season is eight-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins who has been out with shoulder injury but is set to make his debut against the Raven. Atkins is a force up the middle when healthy and has given the interior of Baltimore’s offensive line fits for the last decade.

Potential X factors:

WR Devin Duvernay

The third-round rookie receiver out of Texas has been electric on special teams as a kick returner through the first four games and is active on coverage units as well.

Duvernay has made the most of his limited targets in the passing game, recording five receptions on seven targets for 42 yards with a long of 19.

His role on offense has increased more and more each week and while he was only targeted twice and caught one pass for four yards against Washington, Duvernay played a career-high 16 offensive snaps.

Expect Duvernay’s increased usage to continue as the Ravens and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman do their best to utilize his 4.34 speed and dynamic playmaking ability after the catch on more screens, crossing routes, jet sweeps, and hopefully even some more deep shots down the field.

DT Justin Madubuike

Speaking of rookies drafted in the third round, the first of the four prospects that the Ravens selected in that round is set to make his NFL debut this week. The former Texas A&M standout has practiced for the last two weeks after being sidelined since the middle of training camp with a minor knee injury.

Madubuike is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game but has been a full participant in practice all week for the first time this season.

While he won’t be making his first career start barring any unforeseen injury or positive COVID test (knock on wood), he will provide good depth with a strong interior pass rush upside to the Ravens defensive line rotation. Since there isn’t any film on him at the pro level, he’ll be a bit of a wildcard for a leaky Cincinnati pass protection unit.

Recent history of the matchup:

The Ravens hold a slim lead in the all-time series record between the two division foes at 25-23 dating back to the first meeting in their inaugural season in 1996.

While the Bengals have won their fair share of the matchups in over the last decade, Baltimore has won the last three games ever since Lamar Jackson took over as the starting quarterback midway through his rookie season in 2018.

Cincinnati’s last win over the Ravens came in Week Two of that season on Thursday Night Football when they won 34-23 but Baltimore has outscored them 87-60 in the last three meetings.

Final prediction:

I believe that the Ravens will notch their second straight win on Sunday and that they’ll do it by getting back to their run-based roots even more on offense and continuing to get after the quarterback better on defense.

Since Jackson didn’t practice until Friday, the team might opt to keep the ball on the ground more in this game which would actually be a solid recipe for success since the Bengals’ defense is highly suspectable to the run.

I predict that the Ravens will have their first 100-yard rusher of the season and it won’t be Jackson, the defense will continue to show signs of progression and record three or more sacks again, and that the final score will be 44-13.

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