Week 7 Game of the Week: Cincinnati Bengals vs Baltimore Ravens
Photo credit: Alexander Jonesi 2020
Following on from the London games the NFL refocuses on its domestic schedule. Nowhere will that focus be sharper in week 7 than between the 4-2 Cincinnati Bengals and 5-1 Baltimore Ravens.
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It’s a rivalry game
It will be nasty in the trenches as line snarls at line and the hits are all the bigger as these two rivals go at it. Both teams play in the ‘Black and Blue Division’, the AFC North. So-called because of the traditional aggressive physicality between teams in the Division when they meet.
The two teams have been at loggerheads since 1996 when the Ravens were founded. The rivalry gained serious momentum in 2003 when the Bengals hired long time Ravens' defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis as head coach. And the intensity has never faded since then.
The Ravens lead the series 27-23. But they are on a roll having won the last 5 times these two teams have met. Something the Bengals and their fans are desperate to overcome.
Two young leaders
There’s a new generation of quarterbacking talent forming in the NFL. Nowhere is that more apparent than in this matchup. The Ravens are led by Lamar Jackson, winner of the Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football in 2016. Whilst across the field Cincinnati is headed up by the 2019 Heisman winner Joe Burrow.
Jackson has been in the NFL since 2018, but he and Burrow, (who is in his second year) are both only 24. This could be an in-division rivalry that lights up the NFL for years to come.
How good are they? Jackson is the 2019 NFL MVP, as well as leading his team to a 35-8 record since joining the Ravens - the most wins by any quarterback under 25 since 1970.
They are very different players, however. Jackson is a dual-threat who leads his team in rushing and passing. He is the first NFL quarterback to have multiple seasons surpassing 1,000 rushing yards having done that back-to-back the last two seasons.
Burrow is more of a prototypical drop-back passer with a big arm for launching passes downfield. After an impressive rookie season, he has found even more rhythm this year. Six times this season, Burrow has thrown for at least two touchdowns. Becoming just the second first or second-year QB to ever throw for 2+ scores in each of his first six games in an NFL season.
Keys to the game
For all the talk around the quarterbacks going into this one, the main thing to watch will be the Bengals D against the Ravens O line. Cincinnati has given up the 4th least points in the NFL this year on the way to their 4-2 record.
The strength is a much-improved D line that is conceding the 10th-fewest rushing yards per game. They are going to need that D line to show up alongside Logan Wilson and a solid linebacking group to contain the Ravens’ strength – their running game.
Conversely, the Ravens will want to control the clock with a strong ground game. Whilst limiting big passing plays downfield from Burrow to his receiving corps including his former college teammate and rookie sensation Ja’Marr Chase who was the NFL rookie of the month for September and became the youngest player in NFL history to catch 4 touchdown passes in his first three career games.
This game matters
In a 17-game season, every game is important. But this one has added significance. Whoever wins will lead the AFC North and be in a high playoff seeding with a chance to control their own destiny from here on out.
Now no team in The AFC North has a losing record, so keeping winning and staying ahead of the pack is crucial.
Once they cross onto the field none of that will matter. Few things are fiercer than Divisional rivalries in the NFL. And this is one of the fiercest. If you want to see two teams giving 100% and attacking each other at full throttle from start to finish, then look no further than our game of the week – Bengals at Ravens.
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