Week 11 of the NFL schedule features only one matchup of teams that would be in the playoffs if the postseason were to begin today: the Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens. Las Vegas picks the Ravens with a 7-point spread. But forecasting Baltimore games has been risky this year. The Ravens are 3-0 against the Patriots and Steelers, yet have lost 3 games to opponents with 8 combined wins.
The division rivals enter Sunday’s game with identical 6-3 records. The MyHOFS Football Index
(MFI) rates the Ravens (1.65 seasonal MFI) slightly ahead of the Bengals (1.62). Those MFI scores are 7th and 8th, respectively, in the NFL, and 4th and 5th in the AFC.
The Ravens rank 2nd and the Bengals 3rd league-wide in team defense.
In 6 career games versus Cincinnati, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco has thrown only 4 touchdowns and has been picked off 9 times. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati’s rookie QB, has not yet faced the Ravens.
Flacco is having the worst statistical season of his 4-year career. His 2011 completion percentage is nearly 6 points below his career average, and his 75.6 passer rating is 10 points below his career average. A year ago, Flacco had a passer rating of 93.6 (7th in the NFL) and tossed 25 touchdown passes (10th in the NFL).
Dalton, a 2nd-round draft pick from TCU, has completed 60 percent of his passes for the season. He’s thrown 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Most impressive, Dalton has engineered game-winning drives in 3 of the Bengals 6 victories. Only the Giants’ Eli Manning (5), the Niners’ Alex Smith (4) and the Saints’ Drew Brees (3) have more or as many game-winning drives as Dalton.
A big factor on Sunday will be the status of Bengals receiver A.J. Green, Dalton’s favorite target. Green, the 4th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, hyper-extended his knee on an acrobatic touchdown catch against the Steelers last week. At the time of this post, he was listed as questionable for the Ravens game. Green is averaging 15.5 yards per catch this season and is 6th in the league with 6 touchdown receptions.
Both teams are coming off tough Week 10 losses. A divisional road victory would validate the Bengals among the AFC’s playoff contenders. However, that seems like a tall order for a young team with limited big-game experience and restricted weaponry. Look for the Ravens to pressure the Bengals into decisive mistakes in a hard-fought Baltimore win at M&T Stadium.
– Michael Vick has outrushed Chris Johnson, Reggie Bush and Ahmad Bradshaw so far this season. True.
Vick has 535 yards rushing, ahead of Johnson (496), Bush (474) and Bradshaw (440).
No jinx intended
– Packers’ kicker Mason Crosby is 16-16 on field goal attempts and 38-38 on extra points. Two of his field goals came from 50 or more yards.
That sickening sound rarely heard
– Only 4 punts have been blocked so far during the 2011 NFL season, 1 each on Pat McAfee of the Colts, Mat McBriar of the Cowboys, Thomas Morstead of the Saints and Daniel Sepulveda of the Steelers.
– Bashers of the 49ers’ Ted Ginn, Jr., take heed: He leads the NFL in yards per touch with a 16.9 average. Antonio Brown of the Steelers is 2nd with a 16.0 average.
– Put the following players in the correct order as NFL leaders in yards from scrimmage: LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Wes Welker, Arian Foster and Fred Jackson. Answer:
Jackson (1,309 yards), Forte (1,308), Foster (1,185), McCoy (1,102), Welker (1,038).
Do NOT kick to these guys
– The Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson has returned 3 punts for touchdowns so far this season. He averages 17.6 yards per return. The Bears’ Devin Hester averages 20.1 yards per punt return. He’s scored on 2 punt returns and a 98-yard kickoff return.