Key Matchups: Ravens vs. Bengals

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KEY MATCHUPS
NOVEMBER 30, 2006

A former NFL team football exec (The Guru) and a current personnel director for a team not in the Bengals division (The Chief) break down Thursday night's AFC North showdown with the Ravens and both pick the Bengals to win to go to 7-5 and delay Baltimore's title clinching.

The Guru: I like Cincinnati at home. If they took care of the football in Baltimore they win that game. The game means more to Cincinnati and I'm sure that's how they will play. The defense looks to be taking some solid steps and they're starting to get turnovers again. And it will be a game of turnovers. I think 10 wins gets them into the playoffs and the Bengals are better than any of the Wild Card teams at this point: Denver, Kansas City, the Jets, Jacksonville. I don't think 9-7 gets them in.

The Chief: I'm going with the Bengals. It's a short week at home, the offense is back, and the quarterback's mechanics are a lot better than they were a few weeks ago. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now. He looks like he did last year.

WHEN THE BENGALS HAVE THE BALL
* center>RB Kenny Watson vs. Ravens LILB Bart Scott*

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Watson

They could also be key guys with the ball because The Guru says draws and screens are a good way to stem the Ravens' aggressiveness.

But their protection, led by Ghiaciuc, rookie left tackle Andrew Whitworth and Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson has been superb and much better as the rebuilt line gets more in sync.

"The Bengals have the type of personnel that can spread them out and that gives Baltimore problems," The Chief says. "They've got the quarterback. They've got Ocho. Oh yeah, I love Ocho. He's funny and he's damn good. He beats his guy and he catches the ball."

FYI: The two non-Chad receivers – Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry - combined for five catches and 145 yards three weeks ago in Baltimore.

And, really, the Bengals' best defense against this team is a mistake-free offense because the Ravens defenders can change a game much quicker than their offense can.

Peko or cornerback Johnathan Joseph for Bengals Rookie of the Year? Flip a coin. And with John Thornton iffy with a gimpy knee, Peko will be getting even more snaps like Sunday when Thornton barely played and the Bengals still gave the Browns just 51 yards rushing.

With linebacker Brian Simmons trying to play Thursday for the first time in four games, Bresnahan is getting close to his full complement of backers and that is going to allow him to follow through on the preseason plan of attacking offenses situationally with a core of 16-17 players.

The Bengals defense was only a Heap away from throwing a big-time game at the Ravens. If it controls him Thursday, it gives the Bengals offense a big lift.

The Ravens rely hugely on their big edge in field position, a category the Bengals dominated last week against a top five return team in Cleveland. They need the same kind of performance Thursday. The previous meeting in Baltimore, the Ravens always seemed to be getting the ball at the Cincy 40.

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