Ravens vs. Bengals: Baltimore's Keys to Winning AFC North Spat

Benjamin ButanisContributor IOctober 9, 2009

BALTIMORE - SEPTEMBER 7: Tight end Todd Heap #86 of the Baltimore Ravens runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on September 7, 2008 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens won 17-10. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)

The Ravens and Bengals will battle for AFC North supremacy this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. In order for the Ravens to win this game, they need to do the following:


1) Keep Chad Ochocinco quiet.

By now, you've probably heard of the Twitter feud going on between Ochocinco and several Ravens players. Ochocinco has called out Dominique Foxworth and Fabian Washington, calling Dominque Foxworth "Vivivan Foxworth," and telling them they'll "kiss the baby."

Incidentally-- if you don't know what he means by "kiss the baby" -- he uses the phrase whenever he gets the best of an opposing defender.

Ochocinco also stated he'd punch Ray Lewis in the mouth. Ray just laughed at him.

Good luck with that.

Ray probably wants to hit him like he hit Kellen Winslow last season.

But perhaps the most interesting thing Ochocinco stated this week is that he has a touchdown dance planned for the Ravens: "The Ricky Bobby." With any luck, the Ravens will be up by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and it may be worth it to see Ochocinco score just to see the celebration. Hopefully it will look like this.

Player to Watch: CB Dominique Foxworth.

Foxworth will probably cover Ochocinco most of the day. Ochocinco has experienced a rebirth of sorts with the return of Carson Palmer. Going into Sunday's game, he is tied for second in the NFL with three touchdown receptions—trailing only the Giants' Steve Smith (four).

I'm not too worried about Cendric Benson; it is likely the only way the Bengals will score on the Ravens is through the air—and Ochocinco is the biggest threat.


2) Control the battle of field position.

Chris Carr has been a big disappointment in the return game for the Ravens. For someone that was supposed to bolster special teams, Carr has been skiddish and fumbled the opening kickoff against the Patriots last week.

Plus, the loss of special teams ace Brendan Ayanbadejo (torn left quadriceps tendon) takes away the leader for a young and struggling squad.

Player to Watch:
CB/KR Ladarius Webb.

Webb will be seeing more time as a kick returner, while Carr's role may be limited to returning punts. Webb has quick feet and good burst, and as long as he's able to hold onto the ball, has the opportunity to become the team's first option at returner before the end of the season.


3) Keep Antawn Odom away from Joe Flacco.

Odom is tied with Denver's Elvis Dumervil for the league lead with eight sacks. Odom started the season on fire, recording two sacks in the season-opener against Denver, then compiling five in Week Two against Green Bay.

Player to Watch: OT Michael Oher.

Oher really impressed coaches last week when he made the transition from right to left tackle following Jared Gaither's neck injury. Gaither is optimistic about playing. "There's a great chance that I play this week," he said.

"I'm going to try my best, and I'm going to go out there and give it everything I've got." But should he not be available, the Ravens will be extremely comfortable starting Oher at left tackle.

Prediction: Ravens 31, Bengals 17


Notes: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is 7-5 against the Ravens in his career...Patriots RB Fred Taylor had surgery on the ligaments in his right ankle and could be done for the year...Former NFL tackle Roman Oben apparently really hates the idea of Rush Limbaugh owning an NFL team...

Giants QB David Carr is expected to start Sunday against the Raiders...Eli Manning has started 82 consecutive games but is dealing with inflammation in his heel...Lions QB Matt Stafford apparently isn't sure whether his kneecap was dislocated...I've had a dislocated kneecap, I wouldn't want to start against the Pittsburgh Steelers the next week...

49ers first-round pick Michael Crabtree finally signed a six-year contract Wednesday for $32 million and is expected to play in Week Seven...Steelers S Troy Polamalu has practiced for two straight days and is nearing a return, but is still a game-time decision against the Lions this weekend.


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