3TFO: Bengals @ Ravens, Week 10
In a game that could have major implications for the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens host the Cincinnati Bengals as these division foes clash for the first time this year. The first half of the season hasn’t gone according to plan for the defending Super Bowl champions, who have dropped four of their past five games. On the other side, the Bengals were riding high until Thursday Night Football claimed Geno Atkins’ ACL, not to mention the way they lost, as only two other teams in history have — on an overtime safety.
AFC North division games are typically ugly and dominated by defense, and this game brings together two of the NFL’s top defenses. Both teams boast Top 5 run defense units, and neither team has been particularly good at run blocking lately. Even if the running games don’t figure to be a huge factor, the AFC North All-Division team will be well-represented in this game, as the Bengals (9) and Ravens (6) combined for 15 of the 26 spots on the team.
Torrey Smith vs. Bengals Secondary
Playing over 93% of his snaps outside, AFC North All-Division receiver Torrey Smith has been the lone bright spot for Baltimore’s skill players on offense this year. He’s a major deep threat, with a 16.1 yard Average Depth of Target (ADoT) easily topping the leader board (minimum 30 targets). With 65 targets easily leading the way for the Ravens, nearly 40% of those are on posts, corners, and go routes with a combined ADoT of 28.1 yards on those throws. Especially dangerous on post routes, Smith has hauled in all five targets for 179 yards. While that represents a large portion of his deep success, Smith has caught all seven of the catchable Deep Passes thrown his way, and the Bengals will be wary of the deep ball going his way. Of course, that assumes Joe Flacco can throw a catchable ball. He’s been accurate on just 27.3% of his Deep Passes and has three interceptions on deep attempts this year.
Smith is working more on the left side than the right at a pace of about 60:40, so he’ll face a bit more of Adam Jones than Terence Newman. Playing sides virtually exclusively, Jones has played the right cornerback position since the All-Division Leon Hall went down for the year, and Newman has played the left. Both corners are allowing about 1.5 Yards per Coverage Snap, which is in the bottom 20% of the league. Jones has been the better deep corner, allowing just 3 of 12 completions on go route targets, while Newman has allowed 7 of 13 completions and may be a liability in that area. Over the top, safeties George Iloka and Reggie Nelson have fared a bit better in coverage. Their combined efforts have kept most passes in front of them, as the Bengals have allowed completions on 14 of 45 (31%) deep passes. That’s slightly better than average, as QBs with at least 27 deep attempts have a 36% median completion percentage. With the running game not figuring to be too effective, hitting on some big plays could be key for the Ravens in this one.
A.J. Green’s Second Fiddles
While Torrey Smith seems to be the major receiving threat the Ravens will throw at the Bengals, with respect to Marlon Brown, the Bengals have mixed it up with myriad weapons in the passing game. Giovani Bernard, now our No. 2 half back overall, is a receiving terror out of the backfield with a +6.2 receiving grade bested by only Darren Sproles and Danny Woodhead. Bernard’s 1.7 Yards Per Route Run (YPRR) ranks sixth among backs (min 33 targets). Bernard’s Elusive Rating, 13th in the league, stands at 52.1 thanks in large part to forcing 9 missed tackles on his 30 receptions. Baltimore will mostly answer with a combination of Daryl Smith and cornerbacks in flat zones. Smith has been largely solid in coverage, his +5.6 coverage grade a team high as he’s dealt well with tight ends and backs. As a team, the Ravens have seen 3.4 halfback targets on non-screens per game and have given up only 22.4 yards on those throws per game, but face a challenge with Bernard.
Outside of Bernard, the Bengals seem to have found a No. 2 receiver opposite A.J. Green in Marvin Jones, whose snap count is on the rise and may continue to increase as Jermaine Gresham missed Thursday’s practice with a groin injury. Jones’ stock is on the rise in a big way, out-producing Green over the past month as he’s sprung up to sixth in our overall wide receiver grades, despite seeing just 41 targets and 41.8% of his team’s snaps. Jones is yet to drop a pass this year, and his 2.25 YPRR is 11th in the league after posting 9.38 YPRR in Week 8. With Ladarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, and Corey Graham all posting red coverage grades this year, Dalton and his targets could be headed for a strong day throwing the football.
Suggs and Dumervil vs. Whitworth and Smith
More All-Division players take the headlines as we find a strength-on-strength matchup. Terrell Suggs (+12.5) and Elvis Dumervil (+15.7) have the highest grades on the Ravens defense, but they’ve taken different paths to get there. Suggs has still been an effective pass rusher, with 9 sacks among his 32 total pressures, but he’s really excelled in the running game this year. Our highest graded 3-4 OLB against the run, Suggs’ 15.0% Run Stop Percentage blows the competition away. On 173 run defense snaps, he’s logged 34 tackles in the run game, 26 of which constituted defensive stops. Meanwhile, Dumervil’s 14.1 Pass Rushing Productivity score is just off the league lead. Dumervil has posted 31 total pressures on just 175 pass rushes, bringing most of his heat from the left side of the defense while Suggs works from the right.
For the Bengals, Andrew Whitworth has returned to practice and figures to resume his starting position at left tackle, and All-Division right tackle Andre Smith has the daunting task of dealing with Dumervil’s speed rushing skills. Whitworth has been the better tackle, sporting a 96.6 Pass Blocking Efficiency that’s good for fourth among offensive tackles, and a +5.1 run blocking grade that’s ninth best. The 2013 season has seen Andre Smith’s run blocking slip, but he’s holding his own in pass protection and has done well to avoid penalties to rank as our eighth-best right tackle this year. After a rough week against the Dolphins, he won’t catch a break with Dumervil, and Smith will need to find a way to cope with more speed moves. On the other side, Suggs has struggled with Whitworth in prior meetings. Winning with bull-rushes and outside speed moves, Suggs may need to mix it up this week, as Whitworth hasn’t let anyone around him to the outside yet this year and doesn’t often surrender pressure against the bull-rush. If the Ravens OLB duo wins this battle, it could go a long way in rattling Andy Dalton, who is shaky on the rare occasion that he faces pressure.
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