It's game day Ravens Nation and you know what that means, it's time for Ravens101's five key matchups to watch for and there are some very intriguing matchups in today's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.
Both teams are playing for something today as the Ravens will need a win and a loss by either the San Diego Chargers or the Miami Dolphins to secure the final playoff spot, while the Bengals could garner the number two seed and a first round bye with a win and some help.
There are several key matchups in every game, but we narrow them down to the absolute five most critical to the Ravens success and today is no different.
The argument as to who the best wide receiver in the NFL is practically no argument at all as Calvin Johnson is the obvious choice, but Green is slowly getting himself into the conversation and Smith is going to have his hands full today. Baltimore does not like to designate a cornerback to guard a particular receiver, as they would rather leave their cornerbacks on a particular side and go from there, but they may not have a choice today. Smith has been arguably the best player on the Ravens defense this season and they will need him to do what he did against Johnson two weeks ago, contain him. If Smith can keep Green from having a monster day, that is going to go a long way towards a Ravens victory.
Ravens O-Line vs Bengals D-Line
Cincinnati has one of the best defensive lines in all football, even with Geno Atkins out, and the Ravens offensive line is going to have to step it up a notch. Baltimore allows the fourth most sacks per game, and have struggled run blocking all season. If the o-line can come out and control the line of scrimmage, it will not only help the running game succeed, but also the passing game. The Ravens offensive line may be the absolute biggest key to a Ravens win today, and will have to perform well against one of the best.
Ravens Defense vs Bengals Defense
This may seem like a loaded matchup, but hear us out. The matchup isn't just which defense plays better, that would be too easy, the matchup we are referring to here is which defense can come up with the big play that either directly puts points on the board with a return or indirectly through forcing a turnover that sets up their own offense deep in the opponent's territory. Baltimore's offense has struggled this season, so if the defense can find a way to help put some points on the board, the Ravens will likely leave Cincinnati with a win.
Joe Flacco vs Knee Brace
There is no official word on if Flacco will wear the knee brace again, but we anticipate he will and he is going to have to be better than he was a week ago. Flacco was obviously uncomfortable with the brace as he was not putting the normal zip on the ball which led to passes behind his receivers. He also under-threw several passes due to not being able to fully use the strength of the knee. Lastly his mobility was also an issue, thus if the Ravens want to win this game, Flacco is going to have to overcome the discomfort or mindset that comes with wearing the knee brace.
Ravens vs The Road
It's not uncommon for teams to play better at home than on the road, but the Ravens have taken it to an extreme. Baltimore is 6-2 at home this season, while currently owning a 2-5 record on the road. The blame goes to both sides of the football as both the offense and defense play worse on the road, but this week the Ravens have to find a way to make Paul Brown Stadium home for a day, that is if they want to have a chance at making the playoffs.
These are our five key matchups to watch for in today's crucial regular season finale, what are yours? Let your voice be heard by posting a comment!
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