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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
November 2, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
ATL at MIA* DET at MIN* TEN at CLE* PIT at GB* PHI at WAS*
CAR at TB HOU at JAC* Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM
CIN at BAL SD at NYJ SEA at ARI* DAL, STL Updates*

Prediction: Cincinnati 17, Baltimore 16

After starting the season by waxing lightweight opponents, the Bengals remain the best team in the AFC North but haven't had a huge win in the last month. Of course the Ravens have managed only one win during that time and come off a losing effort on Monday night to the Steelers in a game that they played surprisingly well but, of course, not quite good enough. In two meetings last season, the visitor always won the game. The Ravens won 23-9 in week 3 at Cincinnati and the Bengals won 27-26 at Baltimore.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)
1 27-13 @CLE 10 Open Bye
2 37-8 MIN 11 Nov 20 IND
3 24-7 @CHI 12 Nov 27 BAL
4 16-10 HOU 13 Dec 4 @PIT
5 20-23 @JAC 14 Dec 11 CLE
6 31-23 @TEN 15 Dec 18 @DET
7 13-27 PIT 16 Dec 24 BUF
8 21-14 GBP 17 Jan 1 @KCC
9 Nov 6 @BAL . . SAT
CIN at BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer 0 0 240,2
RB Rudi Johnson 70 10 0
RB Chris Perry 20 40,1 0
TE Matt Schobel 0 10,1 0
WR Chad Johnson 0 70 0
WR Houshmandzadeh 0 60 0
WR Chris Henry 0 20 0
PK Shayne Graham 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Bengals come off a rather uninspired win over the Packers but they were likely not as committed last week when they knew that their next four games were going to be the murderous stretch of the schedule. Cincy faces this game, then IND, BAL again and then at PIT for the defining part of their season. A win here has to happen to maintain that nice AFC North lead but it is not mandatory. Since the Ravens come off a short week, this may end up the easiest game to win for the next month - they have to take advantage of that to keep their cushion.

Quarterback: After failing to throw for a score against the Steelers in week seven, Carson Palmer hopped back to posting big points when he had 237 yards and three scores against the Packers. That gives him 16 passing scores on the season for the lead in the NFL this year. He's on a pace to break 4000 yards though his schedule gets a lot rougher from now on and he'll likely fall short with the great defenses that he'll be going against for the next month.

Palmer threw for 382 yards and three scores against the Ravens in week 13 as a visitor and even had 316 yards in the week 2 game back in Cincinnati though he did not score in that meeting.

Running Backs: Rudi Johnson is a machine. There is no other way to explain why he almost always gets 70 to 90 yards every week and rarely ever scores. With the impressive play of Chris Perry, Johnson is even less likely to see more yards or scores. Perry has caught a scoring pass in two of the last three games and contributes a significant role as a third down back. He's had at least five receptions in each of the last three weeks and typically runs as well or better than Johnson does (though with far fewer carries).

Rudi Johnson only gained 98 and 56 yards in the two meetings with the Ravens last year and never scored.

Wide Receivers: Chad Johnson comes off his worst showing of the year, catching only five passes for 62 yards and no score against the Packers, likely the easiest matchup he should have faced this season. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had the touchdown last week when he turned five receptions into 77 yards. Since Houshmandzadeh has been back, the rookie Chris Henry only has three catches for 27 yards in the last three games. Johnson remains the main man for touchdowns in most games and Houshmandzadeh has been turning in the yardage consistently when he plays.

The dynamic duo was at their best against the Ravens last year. In week two at home, Chad Johnson had eight catches for 99 yards and Houshmandzadeh had seven grabs for 116 yards. In week 13 at Baltimore, Johnson had 171 yards and two scores while Houshmandzadeh turned in 171 yards and one score.

Tight Ends: One catch a week between three different tight ends. No fantasy relevance.

Match Against the Defense: The Ravens rushing defense has been typically sound this year and the Bengals only use the run to support the pass. Look for just another standard effort here by Rudi Johnson and Chris Perry.

Palmer has been very effective against the Ravens when passing the ball and that has been the weaker aspect of the defense this year. Look for at least two scores from Palmer here that actually favor either a tight end or Perry out of the backfield. The Ravens have not allowed a wideout to score since week one. Ed Reed may be back this week but Ray Lewis will not be. That should help to soften up the middle for those shorter passes. Chad Johnson and Houshmandzadeh will get moderate yards but if they score it will be a major success.

Baltimore Ravens (2-5)
1 7-24 IND 10 Nov 13 @JAC
2 10-25 @TEN 11 Nov 20 PIT
3 Open Bye 12 Nov 27 @CIN
4 13-3 NYJ 13 Dec 4 HOU
5 17-35 @DET 14 Dec 11 @DEN
6 16-3 CLE 15 Dec 19 GBP
7 6-10 @CHI 16 Dec 25 MIN
8 19-20 @PIT 17 Jan 1 @CLE
9 Nov 6 CIN . . MON
BAL vs CIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Anthony Wright 0 0 200,1
RB Jamal Lewis 60 0 0
RB Chester Taylor 10 30 0
TE Todd Heap 0 50,1 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 60 0
WR Clarence Moore 0 20 0
WR Mark Clayton 0 20 0
PK Matt Stover 3 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Ravens defense has been stellar this year in most games but the offense has offered almost no help and only serves to give away a short field for the Ravens to defend against. They almost won in Pittsburgh on Monday in a game that is bound to be emotionally draining and at 2-5 with a sputtering offense, the Bengals show up at the right time against a team that will still be without Ray Lewis. The Ravens have a tough stretch now with CIN, @JAX, PIT and @CIN up next and the lack of offense will prove once again to be the critical factor.

Quarterback: Anthony Wright comes off his best game of the season when he had 233 passing yards but he only threw for one score and was intercepted twice. Kyle Boller was expected to be the #3 quarterback for the game but he was downgraded to out last week and still has several weeks before he'll be nearly healthy enough to take the reins back from Wright. After the lackluster offensive showing by Wright, there is no pretense that Boller is not used just as soon as he is available.

In two games last year against the Bengals, Boller never threw for more than 172 yards and had only one touchdown.

Running Backs: Jamal Lewis had several nice runs last Monday, but still finished with only 61 yards on 17 carries. That is slightly better than he had been doing but not nearly enough to make fans wonder why Chester Taylor is not getting more playing time. Taylor himself only had nine yards on eight runs last week but did score once during his four catches for 51 yards. The Ravens have only scored one rushing touchdown the entire year.

Jamal Lewis ran for 186 yards and one score in Cincinnati last year but was inactive in week 13 when Chester Taylor gained 139 yards and one touchdown in Baltimore.

Wide Receivers: Derrick Mason has been earning his paycheck this season, at least in a comparative manner. Mason has only scored once this year but has been the focal point of the passing game and typically has five or six catches a game. He has never gone over 100 yards but remains above 60 or so in almost every match-up so he's already been far better than any Raven wideout from 2004. When Wright passes the ball, chances are high it is going to either Heap or Mason. The other wideouts often have only one catch each in any given week.

Tight Ends: Todd Heap only had four catches for 31 yards against the Steelers for his worst showing of the year but he remains the second favorite target behind Mason. Actually, he remains about the only other option besides Mason and he leads the team with only two receiving touchdowns.

Heap did not play in the first meeting with the Bengals in 2004, but he had three catches for 22 yards in one of his first games back last year.

Match Against the Defense: The biggest factor in this game will be the mind set of the Ravens who lost another close game and come off a short week to face one of the best offenses in the NFL. The Bengals will give up the run to teams that try hard enough and the Ravens will stay on the ground as long as they can. But Lewis is running uninspired now and Taylor only serves to reduce what Lewis can do anyway. Expect moderate numbers here.

Wright goes against a much improved Bengals secondary from last year and should expect to throw only one touchdown - if that. The Bengals have only allowed seven passing scores this year though about half of them have gone to tight ends which favors Heap this week. Mason is matched against Tory James this week, which should keep Mason to his moderate numbers as well.