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Baltimore Ravens News



The Cincinnati Bengals are last or near the bottom of the NFL in almost every important offensive category. Their franchise quarterback, one of the five best in the league, isn't expected to throw for another two weeks and could have surgery on his throwing elbow.

But the Ravens aren't going to have any letdowns Sunday in Cincinnati, especially against the Bengals' passing offense. As far as Ravens coach John Harbaugh is concerned, Cincinnati still has one of the most explosive receiving corps in the NFL with Chad Ocho Cinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry.

"How many secondaries in this league can say they are better than their receivers man-to-man?" Harbaugh said. "Our guys are going to go out and try to prove that they are, as they do every week. [The Bengals' receivers] are as good as any in the league and a threat every time they play."

The Ravens certainly know about Ocho Cinco, Houshmandzadeh and Co. They have lit up the Ravens before on long vertical plays.

But it appears that might be different this time around. The Bengals have the 30th-ranked passing attack going into this week's play, averaging just 159.5 yards a game, and are last in total offense with an average of 239.5 yards. Cincinnati is scoring fewer than two touchdowns a game.

The lack of production can be traced to the absence of Carson Palmer, who injured his right elbow Sept. 21 against the New York Giants and has attempted to play only one game since. Harbaugh, though, likes what he sees in replacement Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has completed 152 of 247 passes for 1,218 yards. Fitzpatrick has thrown seven interceptions but has gotten better every game.

"He is talented, and he is a starting quarterback in this league," Harbaugh said. "He is a bright guy who is big, strong and can make throws on the run."

Fitzpatrick's running ability has the Ravens concerned. Palmer was basically a stationary target. Fitzpatrick won't hesitate to pull down the ball and run.

"You can't replace a top quarterback like Carson, but Fitzpatrick moves around, and every game we've seen him, he just keeps getting better," Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle said.

But the Ravens are even more concerned about the Bengals' receivers. Regardless of the quarterback, this group can cause problems. According to Harbaugh and Rolle, the Bengals' passing game hasn't changed much with Fitzpatrick.

Cincinnati can still stretch defenses because of the speed of Ocho Cinco and Henry. Ocho Cinco will often draw double teams that allow Houshmandzadeh to work underneath coverages.

Ocho Cinco has 41 catches for 383 yards, and Houshmandzadeh has 77 for 746 yards. Each has four touchdown receptions.

"They have a quarterback who can now run around and make plays," Ravens rookie safety Haruki Nakamura said. "T.J. is great on third downs. On third downs, they still have a lot of weapons, and they still go vertical a lot. It's going to be a tough game."

It's even tougher now because of injuries. In the past, Ravens Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister usually matched up with Ocho Cinco, but McAlister is on injured reserve.

When the teams met earlier this season, the Ravens doubled Ocho Cinco with McAlister and safety Ed Reed over the top. The one time the Ravens didn't double Ocho Cinco, he had a 22-yard reception.

Ocho Cinco creates problems for the Ravens without McAlister. Rolle can match his speed, but Ocho Cinco is bigger, which plays more to the strength of Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington.

Regardless, the Ravens will double Ocho Cinco, but that possibly leaves single coverage on either Houshmandzadeh or Henry. Both are extremely dangerous, especially Houshmandzadeh in the slot when he is drawing the defense's No. 3 safety or cornerback.

The Ravens better have a dominating pass rush.

Against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Harbaugh said the secondary played as great of a game as he had seen.

"Our eyes, footwork, the assignments were all executed beautifully," Harbaugh said. "As for the Bengals, it's an opportunity for them to get a victory, and we're going to get the best of the Bengals. I guarantee you that."

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 28, 2008

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Gary Stills Name: Gary Stills
Position: DE
Age: 34
Experience: 10 years
College: West Virginia
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