The Baltimore Ravens travel to Cincinnati for what might be their last game of the 2013 season. The playoffs are still a very real possibility, but Baltimore no longer controls its own destiny. While it may be tough to focus on the game at hand (and keep their eyes off the scoreboard of the other AFC games), all the Ravens can do is handle their business, and that means beating the Cincinnati Bengals.
Here are a few things to watch out for in the quest for the playoffs.
Giovani Bernard, the All-Purpose Back
When these teams met in Week 10, Giovani Bernard accumulated 95 total yards and a touchdown. Containing the rookie's dynamic playmaking abilities will be a priority for the Ravens defense, and the key is to focus on both his skills as a runner and as a receiver.
|Rushing Yards||Rushing TDs||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Receiving TDs|
Bernard can make game-changing plays, so keeping him quiet will go a long way toward a Ravens victory. He's a checkdown option for Andy Dalton, but the Bengals draw up a lot of screens that are designed to get him the ball in space so he can make defenders miss (like on this reception in Week 16):
A.J. Green vs. Jimmy Smith
Head coach John Harbaugh has been vocal about his respect for A.J. Green, calling him the best receiver in the NFL. Now Coach Harbaugh needs to figure out how he's going to cover one of the best receivers in the league.
The Ravens probably won't make Jimmy Smith shadow Green like he did Calvin Johnson, but it's certainly something to consider. If we see it happen on Sunday, it might be a sign that Smith is taking over as the Ravens' shutdown corner.
More likely, however, is that we'll see different cornerbacks on Green throughout the game. The former Georgia receiver torched Baltimore for 151 yards and a touchdown (on the Hail Mary play at the end of regulation), so keeping Green under wraps is a priority for defensive coordinator Dean Pees.
Get Creative With Blitzes
Like most quarterbacks, Dalton has struggled when the pass rush has gotten to him early and often. As a result, Pees needs to release the hounds early in the game and unleash his full arsenal of blitzes in an effort to get to Dalton.
|Dalton's Worst 2 Games of the Year|
|Opponent||Sacks Allowed||Yards||TDs||INTs||Passer Rating|
The Ravens sacked Dalton five times in Week 10, and it was one of his worst games of the year. If the pass rush can bring down the "Red Rifle," Baltimore will be able to keep him off-balance and force turnovers.