Ravens, Bengals need to overcome injuries

In a division where three of the four teams have at least six wins by the middle of November, a two-game losing streak can easily dash your playoff chances.

A lot is at stake Sunday as the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Baltimore Ravens in a battle of 6-3 teams, both of whom are coming off disappointing losses in Week 10. The winner will be tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for first place in the AFC North.

However, the game may be decided by two key players for each team that likely will not be on the field this weekend: Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

Rookie Andy Dalton will face one of the biggest challenges of his young career against a Ravens team that is ranked sixth in defending the pass and third overall.

One area where the Ravens defense has been susceptible, however, is on deep passes. Baltimore has given up 11 receptions of 30-or-more yards, the same amount as the winless Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots, who have the league’s worst pass defense.

Andy Dalton This Season
Passing 11+ Yards Downfield

The problem for Dalton is that his top deep threat is fellow rookie Green, who is not expected to play Sunday due to a knee injury. Green has six catches of at least 30 yards this season, tied for third-most in the league.

If Green is unable to go, Jerome Simpson, will need to fill the void. Simpson has three catches of 30-plus yards and leads the team with 164 yards after the catch. Last year in Baltimore he caught 12 passes for 123 yards and a score but fumbled twice in the 13-7 loss.

Frank Victores/US Presswire

Ray Lewis expected to miss Sunday's game vs. the Bengals.

On the other sideline, Lewis is also questionable for Sunday and is expected to miss his first game since 2007. His streak of 57 consecutive starts is the third-longest active streak among linebackers.

Lewis leads the Ravens with 49 solo tackles and his six passes defended are tied for third-most among NFL linebackers. His five interceptions against the Bengals are his most against any team, and he had 15 tackles and one sack in two games against Cincinnati last year.

According to Pro Football Focus, Lewis has 40 stops this season, third among inside linebackers. A stop is defined as when an offense fails to get either 40 percent of the required yards for another first down on first down or 60 percent on second down, or doesn’t convert a first down on third or fourth down.

Key To the Game

This matchup featuring two of the top five defenses in the NFL could come down to which team makes fewer mistakes. The Ravens’ opportunistic defense has a league-best 10 fumble recoveries while the Bengals have lost just one fumble all season, fewest in the NFL.