The Bengals are playing their second division opponent of the season on Sunday, when they head to Baltimore to face the Ravens.
Baltimore boasts the league's highest scoring offense and the emergence of second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson should make for an entertaining game of football. The Bengals are still seeking their first win of the season and have come close. Three of the team's five losses have come by four points or less.
Here are the three things to watch.
1. Rushing Defense – It's no secret around the league that the Ravens want to run the football. Baltimore ranks first in rushing yards (961), attempts (180), first downs (56) and second in rushing touchdowns (seven). Their strategy is to grind defenses down as evidenced by an average drive time of 3:15, which trails only the Los Angles Chargers.
The Ravens boast one of the best rushing combinations in the league in Jackson and running back Mark Ingram. Jackson, who leads all quarterbacks and is 16th in rushing yards with 308, showcases play-making ability every time he touches the ball. Ingram (372 rushing yards, six touchdowns) serves as a perfect complement with his physical running style.
What could be helpful though is the Bengals have faced similar dual-threat quarterbacks to Jackson early this season. Seattle's Russell Wilson, Buffalo's Josh Allen and Arizona's Kyler Murray each have tried to get out of the pocket and make plays with their legs against the Bengals defense. Of those three quarterbacks, only Murray has rushed for a touchdown.
2. Engaged At Tight End – Taylor said earlier in the week that he would like the tight ends to become a bigger focal point on offense. With the Bengals down both A.J. Green and John Ross at receiver, Taylor and company will look to exploit mismatches on the Ravens defense to move the ball and help in the red zone.
That is where the Bengals tight ends come into play. The Ravens defense this year is allowing 56.4 yards per game to opposing tight ends. In their two losses, tight ends ran rampant through their defense allowing an average of 95 yards.
The Bengals tight ends will also have a busy Sunday ahead working with the offensive line. They'll help in maximum protection while trying to run against a Ravens defensive front that ranks 10th in rushing defense. Glimpses of that came in the Arizona game with Tyler Eifert and C.J. Uzomah being utilized in stretches on pass protection to stop the Cardinals edge rushers.
3. Get Good Depth Production - The Bengals, like every NFL team, instinctively cite a "next man up" mentality to deal with injuries or suspensions during a season. This week will be no different. The Bengals declared receivers Green and Ross out, along with offensive tackle Andre Smith, defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Kerry Wynn and defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow.
The Bengals will need some of those backups to play well again on Sunday. Wide receiver Auden Tate scored his first career touchdown against Arizona and played 100 percent of the snaps. Safety Brandon Wilson, who filled in for Alex Erickson and ran a kickoff back for 52 yards, might have to serve double duty on special teams and at safety. Offensive lineman Alex Redmond, who started 15 games at right guard last season, returned from a suspension and worked in at left tackle this week in practice. Those players and others will be relied upon heavily for the Bengals to handle a disciplined Ravens squad on the road.
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.
Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Rich Gannon (analyst) and Jay Feely (sideline reporter).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).
The game also will air nationally on Sports USA Radio. Broadcasters are Josh Appel (play-by-play) and Charles Arbuckle (analyst).