Baltimore Ravens: 5 Keys to Victory Against the Bengals
The game is one of the most anticipated games of the opening weekend, and it has plenty of playoff implications. Both teams figure to be in the playoff hunt at the end of the season, and the head-to-head record could come into play,
The Ravens enter the game as the favorites, but the Bengals could easily walk into M&T Bank Stadium and pull off the victory.
In order to avoid being upset by the Bengals, here are five keys to victory for the Ravens.
Shut Down A.J. Green
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In 2011, the Ravens were lucky enough to only have to face star receiver A.J. Green one time. In the first meeting against the Ravens, Green missed the game due to injury.
In the second meeting between the two teams, Green did play. However, it was almost as if he wasn't even on the field. Green caught just two passes for 26 yards in the regular season finale against the Ravens, which was one of the worst performances of his rookie season.
The 26 yards were his second-lowest yardage total of the season. If the Ravens can limit Green to similar numbers on Monday night, Cincinnati's offense will struggle to have success.
Establish the Running Game
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While the Ravens will be showing off the new-look no-huddle offense on Monday night, it will be the running game that needs to be established.
Even in the no-huddle offense, the offensive coordinator needs running back Ray Rice to get as many touches as possible. That is because in 2011 Rice ran for more than 100 yards in both games against the Bengals. In each of the two games, Rice had at least 20 rushing attempts and he needs to duplicate that amount of touches Monday night.
Hold BenJarvus Green-Ellis to Under 70 Yards
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With backup running back Bernard Scott out for Monday night's game due to a hand injury, starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will handle the majority of the workload at running back.
Green-Ellis, who was signed in the offseason, ran for 70 or more yards four times last season in a running back-by-comittee offense in New England.
In the AFC Championship Game against the Ravens, Green-Ellis ran for 68 yards and a touchdown on 15 attempts. Green-Ellis' success in the running game on short yardage situations helped the Patriots beat the Ravens, and he will be counted on in Monday's game.
Green-Ellis will likely have a workload of around 20 carries, and if the Ravens can hold him to under 70 yards or four yards per carry, their chances of winning will significantly increase.
Limit Andy Dalton to Under 300 Passing Yards
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In Andy Dalton's first career game against the Baltimore Ravens last season, he threw for a career-high 373 yards. While the Bengals did lose the game 31-24, Dalton showed the capability of being able to pick apart the Ravens' defense, especially with the deep ball.
In the second meeting with the Ravens, Dalton threw for just 232 yards, although he had only one less attempt than the first game against the Ravens.
Dalton will likely have 35-40 attempts on Monday night, and the Ravens need to keep him under 300 passing yards. The Bengals lost six games last season when Dalton was held to under 300 yards, and that trend could continue on Monday.
No Missed Field Goals
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While the Ravens will be sending out rookie kicker Justin Tucker against the Bengals instead of the recently-released Billy Cundiff, the kicking game is still an important aspect of the game.
Of the five losses by the Baltimore Ravens in 2011, four of them included at least one missed field goal. Had each of those field goals been made, Baltimore's record could have been better last year.
In a game that will likely come down to the wire in the fourth quarter, the kicking game could be what will win the game for either the Ravens or Bengals.