3 Things To Watch | Bengals And Ravens Tangle In An AFC North Clash

Bengals returner Brandon Wilson took the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown in last year's matchup at Baltimore.
Bengals returner Brandon Wilson took the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown in last year's matchup at Baltimore.

The Bengals-Ravens series over the years has been one of the most hotly contested not only in the AFC North, but in the NFL overall.

Baltimore leads the series 25-23, but 14 of the teams' 19 meetings have been one-score decisions, by eight or fewer points. Capitalizing on the opponent's mistakes has been a key in separating the two teams. In the 37 all-time Bengals-Ravens meetings in which the turnover differential has not been even (1995-present), the team who wins the turnover battle has posted a 32-5 record.

Here are the three things to watch.

1. Battle of the Heisman Trophy Quarterbacks – The matchup between Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and the Ravens signal caller Lamar Jackson will be the spotlight.

Burrow ranks 10th in the NFL with 1,121 passing yards, second in competitions (116) and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 3.0. In the win over Jacksonville, Burrow made NFL history becoming the first rookie quarterback to throw for 300 yards in three consecutive contests. That's remarkable achievement because Burrow has played in only four. Where Burrow has excelled has been on intermediate throws. According to Pro Football Focus, on passes of 11 to 20 air yards, Burrow went 11-for-13 for 206 yards against the Jaguars defense.

Jackson, who won the NFL's Most Valuable Player award last season, looks as efficient as ever as a dual-threat quarterback. He has the second-most rushing yards for a quarterback with 235, just behind Arizona's Kyler Murray at 265. Where Jackson has been better is in the passing game. His competition percentage up from 66.1 percent last year to 68.4 in 2020 and his interception rate is down from 1.5 to 1.0. In two games last season against the Bengals, Jackson went 49 for 69 (71 percent) for 609 yards and three touchdowns.

2. Can Mixon And Company Keep It Going – When the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Ravens in Week 3, it provided a window as to how to stop the Baltimore offense. The Chiefs controlled the clock for almost 34 minutes, went 10 of 13 on third downs and rushes for 132 yards.

Bengals running back Joe Mixon, who was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, ranks fifth in the NFL with 315 rushing yards. The Bengals find success when Mixon gets the ball 20-plus times a game, going 8-5 in those contests.

The Bengals last season at Baltimore ran the ball 14 times for 33 yards. They corrected that giving the ball to Mixon 30 times for 114 yards in the return game at Cincinnati. Controlling the clock and giving the ball to one of the league's best running backs will not only keep Baltimore's offense off the field, but could open up the play action game for Burrow and the receivers.

3. Elite Special Teams – If you love the dynamics of kick returns, field position punting and accurate kickers, this is the game to circle on the calendar. Both the Bengals and Ravens have some of the league's best specialists. According to Football Outsiders, the Ravens' special teams unit ranks first in the NFL, while the Bengals are close behind in fourth.

Baltimore's Devin Duvernay leads the NFL in yards per kick return at 34.0 and has the only kick return touchdown this season. Guess who ranks second? Cincinnati's Brandon Wilson at 30.3 yards per kick return. The special teams similarities don't stop there. The Bengals' Randy Bullock leads the NFL with 45 poitns and has made a league-best 12 field goals on 13 attempts. His counterpart, Baltimore's Justin Tucker, is a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals and 14-for-14 on extra points. Even the punters are similar with the Bengals' Kevin Huber and the Ravens' Sam Koch both with seven kicks inside the 20.

With how well coached and talented both units are teams units are, don't be surprised if a special teams play tips the balance of the game.

GAME COVERAGE

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 Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Rich Gannon (analyst) and Amanda Balionis (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).

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