Cincinnati Bengals (4-2, 3-3 ATS) at Baltimore Ravens (5-1, 3-3), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Bengals Stats and Trends
The Bengals won six games in Zac Taylor’s first two seasons in Cincinnati, and they’re just a pair of three-point losses away from being undefeated with six wins in 2021.
The Bengals are 5-1 toward unders this season, and they’ve played under the total in five straight games.
Joe Burrow has multiple TD passes in every game this season and he’s reached 18+ FP in 5-of-6 games. He’s averaging just 29.0 passes per game but he ranks third in YPA (8.9). The Ravens limited Justin Herbert and company to 3.9 yards per play and to a 25% conversion rate on both third (3 of 12) and fourth downs (1 of 4). Burrow posted 183 scoreless yards in his lone appearance against Baltimore last season.
Ja’Marr Chase has forcefully emerged as Cincinnati’s clear top receiver just six weeks into his career, which has left Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd as volatile options moving forward. Higgins has fallen below 45 receiving yards in each of his first two games back from his shoulder injury after posting 3/44 receiving on six targets (20% share) against the Lions. Boyd had an even more miserable showing with just a seven-yard catch on three targets, which gives him just 5/31 receiving in the last two weeks with a full cast of receivers at Burrow’s disposal. Meanwhile, the #5 overall pick has 13+ FP in every game this season with 65+ receiving yards in four straight contests, and he trails only Henry Ruggs in YPR with his average of 20.5 yards. Higgins has actually seen the most targets (28) in their four games together, but his aDOT sits at just 8.8 yards compared to Chase’s 19.0 average on 26 targets. Boyd has been just flat out miserable with an aDOT of 5.3 yards on 20 targets. The Ravens are giving up the fifth-fewest FPG (30.6) to WRs, and they limited Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to a combined 7/77 receiving last week.
C.J. Uzomah found the end zone for the third time in the last three weeks against the Lions, but he’s totaled just 5/31/1 receiving in the last two weeks with Higgins back in the lineup. The Ravens are at least giving up the second-most FPG (18.7) to TEs, including 4/25/1 receiving to Jared Cook last week.
HC Zac Taylor said before Week 6 that Joe Mixon would get a full workload against the Lions, and Mixon quickly proved he’s back to full strength off the ankle injury he suffered in Week 4. Mixon posted a season-best 26.3 FP on 62% of the snaps against Detroit, which came a week after totaling 35 scrimmage yards on a 28% snap share against the Packers. He slipped plenty of tackles and looked explosive on his way to finishing with 18/94 rushing, and he also exploded for 5/59/1 receiving on six targets after posting just 4/8 receiving on six targets in his last four games. Chris Evans got some run (7/67 scrimmage) in Week 6 and Samaje Perine (COVID list) will be back this week, but Mixon is one of the position’s better bets to get 18-20 touches per week moving forward. The Ravens are giving up just 3.8 YPC to RBs but backs are averaging the second-most receiving yards per game (67.2).
Brolley’s Ravens Stats and Trends
The Ravens limited the Bengals to three points in each of their matchups last season, with one of those games coming with Joe Burrow in the lineup.
Baltimore has covered in three straight meetings in this series after the Bengals had covered four straight contests before that.
Baltimore is 5-1 ATS in its last six home games, and they’re 6-2 toward overs in their last eight home games.
Lamar Jackson had his worst fantasy performance of the season last week with just 13.8 FP, 6.7 YPA, and two INTs in a lopsided victory over the Chargers. Lamar has hit multiple TD passes just twice this season and he’s failed to score a rushing TD since he scored twice against the Chiefs in Week 2. Lamar posted 293/5 passing and 100 rushing yards in two matchups against the Bengals last season. Cincinnati is giving up the sixth-fewest FPG (16.4) to QBs this season, but they’ve given up 20+ FP to the only two fringe QB1s they’ve faced (Rodgers and Cousins).
Marquise Brown had to settle for 4/35 receiving on five targets, with his lone missed connection coming on a potential 21-yard touchdown on a slightly overthrown pass. Hollywood still has 19+ FP in four of his six games but he’s fallen below nine FP in his two other contests. Hollywood posted 11/118/3 receiving on 18 targets in two matchups against the Bengals last season.
Rashod Bateman saw his first NFL action in Week 6, and he immediately jumped into the #2 WR role with Sammy Watkins (hamstring) out of the lineup. He matched Mark Andrews for a team-best six targets (22% share) against the Chargers, and he turned his looks into 4/29 receiving on a day in which Lamar Jackson had to do little through the air (167 passing yards). He played the second-most WR snaps (65%) so he really wasn’t on a snap count when the game was still competitive. The Bengals are giving up the fifth-most catches per game (15.2) to WRs.
Mark Andrews has 10+ FP and 5+ catches in five straight games, and he has 65+ receiving yards in four consecutive contests. T.J. Hockenson posted 8/74 receiving on 11 targets in this matchup last week, and Andrews had 10/83 receiving in two games in this matchup last year.
Devonta Freeman has played the best out of Baltimore’s decrepit stable of running backs over Latavius Murray and Le’Veon Bell. Freeman led the backfield with 9/53/1 rushing in their victory over the Chargers, and Murray ended up leaving the game early with an ankle injury. Murray could be looking at missed time in the future, and Bell looked slow and plodding on his way to 8/18/1 rushing in Week 6. Ty’Son Williams will likely return to the active roster if Murray misses time to be the third man in this heavy rotation. The Bengals are giving up just 3.6 YPC and 70.5 rushing yards per game to RBs.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 31.5 (30th)
Plays per game: 62.8 (28th)
Pass: 56.9% (24th) | Run: 43.1% (9th)
Pace: 31.2 (29th)
Plays per game: 70.7 (8th)
Pass: 54.6% (28th) | Run: 45.4% (5th)
The Ravens are the same team every week: Lamar Jackson is the most exciting player in football right now and the Ravens go as Lamar goes. They play slow and Lamar carries the run game – especially this year. And this is a spot where Lamar has run wild, totaling 317 rushing yards and 2 TDs in four starts against Bengals’ DC Lou Anarumo’s unit.
The Bengals are right there with the Ravens among the league’s slowest teams and while it looks like they lean run-heavy, we’ve actually seen a reversal in their tendencies over the last three weeks with Joe Burrow getting more comfortable. Cincinnati is now among the league-leaders in situation-neutral pass rate and I’m betting they’re going to have to lean even more on Burrow’s arm as touchdown dogs in Baltimore. This Ravens defense isn’t one to be afraid of, either. They didn’t shut down Justin Herbert – the Chargers just completely flopped as Herbert had arguably his worst start as a pro. Prior to last week, the Ravens were shredded by Derek Carr in Week 1 (for 435 yards and 2 TDs) and Patrick Mahomes in Week 2 (for 343 yards and 3 TDs). Then, Baltimore got Jared Goff in Week 3 and Drew Lock in Week 4 (Bridgewater got hurt) before getting ripped again by Carson Wentz (for 402 yards and 2 TDs) in Week 5.
Bengals pass rate when the game is within a score (in 1st-3rd quarter) has increased over their last three games with Joe Burrow getting back in the flow:
First three games – 55% (sixth-lowest rate)
Last three games – 65% (seventh-highest rate)
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) October 21, 2021
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
I’m well aware of what happened last season when Joe Burrow traveled with his team to Baltimore in Week 5. It was a performance that stands as the worst of his early career, posting just 4.3 FPs. But Burrow will have three things in his favor that he didn’t possess when he faced the Ravens last season:
- An improved O-line
- Ja’Marr Chase
- C.J. Uzomah
Without an O-line able to withstand Baltimore’s constant all-out blitzes from a Cover “Free” scheme (Cover 0), Burrow wasn’t provided with enough time to take advantage of the Ravens’ high Cover 1 and Cover 6 rates. After standing as the worst O-line in the NFL last season, the Bengals’ unit has limited the opposition to the fewest QB pressures/game this season. Take a moment to consume that turnaround.
The issue with Marquise Brown is having to deal with Chidobe Awuzie’s coverage. Awuzie may not seem like a tough matchup with surrendering 1.12 YPCS (37th), 0.28 FP/CS (56th), and 0.40 AY/CS (54th) to his coverage. But a couple big plays are built into those numbers. He’s been targeted at the third-lowest rate this season (22%)… so Hollywood might need to make a big play. Fortunately, that’s his game.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
I love this Bengals team — I think it’s a fun group and is set up for long-term success offensively, and the defense has to be playing better than any Cincinnati fan could have reasonably dreamed. It’s something that has given the Bengals some confidence in a divisional series in which Cincy has lost five straight games (they’re 0-5 against Lamar Jackson), including three straight by at least 24 points. They think there’s something different about them this year.
Bengals TE CJ Uzomah, when I asked about the struggles against Baltimore in recent years: “This is a new team. We got some s—- to us, for lack of a better word.”— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) October 20, 2021
But there is an issue from our perspective.
The Bengals have a ton of weapons offensively, with one of the league’s best three-man WR groups in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, plus a running back in Joe Mixon whom they’re finally allowing to be a bell cow. It’s just that they’re not playing enough snaps for everyone to get their bag.
The Bengals currently average 58.8 plays per game, tied for 5th-fewest in the NFL. It’s likely a smart strategy for getting QB Joe Burrow back into the fold following his devastating knee injury last year. But when a team runs so few plays, someone is going to be a loser for fantasy. Here’s Graham Barfield from the Week 7 Stat-Pack on the Bengals’ player usage so far:
Bengals target distribution in the four games that Tee Higgins has played: Higgins (28), Chase (27), Boyd (21).
Boyd has been under 16% of the targets in 3-of-4 games with Higgins healthy.
With Samaje Perine (COVID I.R.) out last week, Joe Mixon was on the field for 76% of the Bengals plays before they pulled their starters in the fourth quarter.
Before he injured his ankle, Joe Mixon handled a 76% snap share in Weeks 1-4 – which ranked fifth-highest among RBs.
Dating back to last year, Mixon has handled 23 touches per game and never dipped below 17 touches in a single-game over his last 11 fully healthy contests.
Joe Burrow has at least been consistent despite the Bengals being very run-heavy. His weekly finishes: QB17 > QB25 > QB17 > QB11 > QB17 > QB9.
Unfortunately, it’s not a great spot for the WRs in general, with the Ravens giving up the 5th-fewest FPG to the position. With their coverages, they make it difficult for QBs to read the middle of the field, which makes this a tough spot for Boyd for me. I’d rank these WRs as Chase (definitely play) > Higgins (probably play) > Boyd (maybe play depending on my bye situation).
If you’re dying for a cheap TE this week who is almost certainly on your waiver wire, CJ Uzomah has a matchup against a Raven team giving up the second-most FPG to opposing TEs.
Anyway, how about Chase blocking on Mixon’s long TD last week? That was incredible.
a quick breakdown of Ja’Marr Chase lead blocking on Joe Mixon's TD pic.twitter.com/Tw7mMxmB1r
— Mike Camerlengo (@MCamerlengo) October 18, 2021
The Ravens had a laugher against the Chargers last week — an unexpected laugher — which meant they didn’t have to throw the ball much. Lamar Jackson’s 27 attempts were his second fewest of the season, and just the second time he’s gone below 30 attempts as well. The Bengals have had one of the easiest slates of QBs on their schedule so far this year, as Brolley noted above, including matchups with Andy Dalton/Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, and Jared Goff. This matchup is decidedly not that, and while Cincy’s defense has played better than most could expect, I don’t expect they’ll have an easy time shutting down Lamar.
The Ravens’ pass game, despite not being leaned on last week, is still what makes this offense tick. And last week, they got WR Rashod Bateman into the lineup for the first time, returning from core muscle surgery. In his debut, Bateman was second among the Ravens WRs in routes run and he lined up primarily as an outside receiver (19-of-22 routes).
Here’s Jake Tribbey from the Week 7 DFS Early Look on what he saw out of Bateman’s debut:
“With Baltimore throwing the ball at a 7% higher rate than in 2019 and 2020, there may be room for a third fantasy-relevant pass catching option in this offense. Enter Rashod Bateman. In his first NFL game this past week, Bateman tied with Mark Andrews for the team lead in targets (6), ran the 3rd-most routes on the team (22), and finished 3rd on the team in receiving yards (29). Granted, this did come with Sammy Watkins (hamstring) out of the lineup. Still, given the draft capital the Ravens have invested, and that Bateman only has one game under his belt, it’s reasonable to assume his usage has nowhere to go from here but up.”
Do I think Bateman’s usage spells doom for Marquise Brown? Not at all. Brown’s been too valuable to Baltimore this year, and he’s been a high-end fantasy option. In a game in which Baltimore controlled the line of scrimmage against the Chargers, it was a throwback performance for a Raven offense that has increasingly relied on the pass game in 2021. That was bad news for Hollywood’s fantasy production, as he posted just 4/35 receiving on 5 targets — the target he didn’t catch arguably could have been hauled in for a TD, as it was slightly ahead of him but still hit his fingertips, giving Brown 4 dropped TDs this year if you’re being liberal with the definition. Still, the Ravens were able to dictate the terms of their matchup with the Chargers, which means the target volume wasn’t there for Brown, and I would expect Jackson to throw it more in coming weeks than he did in this surprising blowout win. But if Bateman is healthy, Brown might not have the monopoly on WR production here that he did during the first five weeks of the season. The upside is too strong here, though — he scored 3 TD on the Bengals last year, and Cincy has given up massive games to Adam Thielen and Davante Adams this year.
By the way, Mark Andrews is a rock star. Here’s Graham with some context:
After scoring just 5 FP in Week 1, Mark Andrews has been a consistent stud – rattling off TE10, TE6, TE12, TE1, and TE4 weekly finishes over his last five games.
Andrews has seen at least 22% of Ravens’ targets in four-straight games.
Andrews is now second among all TEs in target share (25%) just behind Darren Waller (26%).
The other story here, and perhaps the most important one with six teams on bye this week — and many more RBs injured — is Baltimore’s “throwbackfield,” consisting of Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, and Le’Veon Bell, who accounted for 115 rushing yards and 3 TD (one each) on 26 carries against the Chargers in Week 6.
Murray was operating as Baltimore’s lead back, but he left the field during the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return, ultimately playing 38% of the snaps to Bell’s 32% and Freeman’s 30%. Coach John Harbaugh didn’t give much of a hint beyond indicating it’s not a long-term injury, but Murray will miss this week. Still, Baltimore has a Week 8 bye, so with Murray out Week 7, he could be healed up in time for the second half of the schedule. And to these eyes, Freeman actually looks the best of the trio, all of whom have at least one 1000-yard rushing season to their names… but none since 2017 (Bell). I think Freeman is an RB2 this week given his extra juice in the passing game, but some folks might have no choice but to play Bell (presuming, of course, Murray does miss).
As a final point, I think it needs to be noted how special Jackson’s play has been this year to have Baltimore at 5-1 despite having, perhaps, the worst injury luck in the league. He’s stepped his game up to outrageous levels. And now, LT Ronnie Stanley (ankle) is out for the year, making it two consecutive lost seasons for him.
Ravens won't get a single snap this yr from top two RBs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards; starting CB Marcus Peters and ILB L.J. Fort. All Pro LT Ronnie Stanley was one game and done. Standout blocking TE Nick Boyle and starting DT Derek Wolfe have still yet to play. And they're 5-1.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) October 19, 2021