3TFO: Ravens @ Bengals, Week 17
With a win last week, the Baltimore Ravens locked up the AFC North and avoided a do-or-die matchup in Cincinnati this week. More importantly though, they looked like the team we saw back in Week 1 at home to the Bengals, as opposed to the struggling, stuttering team we’ve seen for much of the year.
While they won’t be competing for a division title this week, the Cincinnati Bengals did book their spot in the playoffs for the second year running with a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday. It won’t be easy winning three road games in a row, but the Bengals have at least given themselves a chance as we hit the playoffs.
Despite this not being a game with huge playoff implications, it’s still a divisional matchup with plenty of talking points. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the three key areas to focus on this week.
Marshal Yanda vs. Geno Atkins
Unlike many players, Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda deserved his Pro Bowl nod, leading all guards with a Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating of 98.4. Allowing just three hits and eight hurries from 516 pass blocking snaps, he is one of just two offensive guards not to allow a sack at all this season. Beyond that, his play in the run game has been key to the Ravens’ offense, with only three guards having a higher grade as a run blocker in 2012.
This week Yanda has one of the toughest tests he’s faced since the two teams met in Week 1, Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins. He won’t win the defensive player of the year award because he hasn’t got the same coverage as J.J. Watt and Von Miller this season, but Atkins’ play has been good enough that he certainly warrants being in the discussion. Since we began grading back in 2008, no defensive tackle has had a season like the one we are seeing from Atkins, who leads all defensive tackles with a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 13.0. Not just a one-trick pony, he also ranks second among all defensive tackles with a Run Stop Percentage of 10.4%, with 25 of his 29 tackles this season resulting in a defensive stop.
Ravens Cornerbacks vs. A.J. Green
There are two things that you can expect every week from Ravens cornerback Cary Williams. He’s going to allow a big play, with just two three games this season where he hasn’t allowed a reception of 20 yards or more. And he’s going to make a play on the ball at least once, with a pass breakup or interception in all but three games in 2012. Consistently inconsistent, Williams always seems to have at least one play per game where he loses his man deep. Corey Graham has made the starting spot opposite Williams his own since replacing Jimmy Smith. Giving up two 14-yard receptions in the past two weeks, Graham has allowed just one touchdown reception in his coverage this season, while breaking up six passes and picking off two more.
While Cincinnati’s A.J. Green has been prolific in 2012, with only four receivers having more yards through 15 games, he has struggled against press coverage. That shouldn’t be much of an issue in this game however, as Williams doesn’t spend much time in press coverage. With 1,324 yards from 566 snaps in route Green is sixth among all wide receivers, averaging 2.34 Yards Per Route Run. He has, however, struggled with dropped passes in recent weeks, with half of his 10 drops this season coming in the past three weeks.
The Ravens Talented Backfield
While there have been plenty of calls for Ray Rice to see more touches on offense, it’s worth noting that he’s not the only person in the backfield getting it done. With 32 missed tackles forced from 315 total touches, and averaging 2.37 Yards After Contact Per Attempt, Rice has an Elusive Rating of 24.0, 15th among running backs who have seen at least 50% of their teams attempts.
While that’s impressive, his backup Bernard Pierce has been even better on the limited touches he has seen. Pierce has an Elusive Rating of 84.4, with 21 missed tackles forced from 92 touches on offense, and he averages 3.70 Yards After Contact Per Attempt.
Life is made a lot easier for both Pierce and Rice with the league’s best blocking full back, Vonta Leach, leading the way. With just two games this season where he has a negative grade as a run blocker, Leach has lead the way for the Ravens running backs with his lead blocking all season.
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