Carl Pickens, WR
The sad thing about Pickens' recent receiving drought is that he hasn't been exclusively double-covered. But Neil O'Donnell missed Pickens a few too many times for coach Bruce Coslet's taste, helping lead to the quarterback's benching.
The Bengals would gladly accept a repeat of Pickens' last performance against the Ravens. He caught a game-high seven passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns in Cincinnati's 31-24 loss on Sept. 27 in Baltimore, scoring on a 1-yard pass from O'Donnell and a 67-yarder from Jeff Blake. Pickens will become the only Bengal to catch a touchdown pass from all three quarterbacks if he can collaborate with Paul Justin today. That and $2.50 will get you a large latte.
Roosevelt Blackmon, CB
Blackmon could receive his first NFL start if Artrell Hawkins (right ankle) can't play. At the very least, the rookie will be the third cornerback, playing frequently in obvious passing situations. Though Blackmon received action from scrimmage in last Sunday's game at Minnesota, this will be his first extended opportunity to prove his value.
Cincinnati acquired Blackmon on waivers Oct. 1 from Green Bay, which drafted him in the fourth round from Morris Brown. Coslet billed Blackmon as speedy when he joined the Bengals, which contrasted with whispers that the Packers considered him a step too slow. The truth could emerge today against Baltimore receivers Michael Jackson and Jermaine Lewis.
Jermaine Lewis, WR-Ret
Having averaged 57.6 yards on his eight touchdowns, Lewis might be a big star if he played almost anywhere else. After spending most of his first two seasons playing behind Derrick Alexander, Lewis has grabbed the spotlight, along with a lot of passes, by amassing 31 catches for 643 yards (a league-high 20.7 average) and six touchdowns. He also ranks third in the AFC with a 12.9 punt-return average, garnished by two touchdowns.
Lewis demonstrated both skills in the first game against the Bengals, scoring on a 73-yard pass and an 87-yard punt return. Bengals punter Lee Johnson worked diligently in practice at directing his kicks toward the sideline, the better to defend Lewis. The Bengals hope Johnson's aim is true today.
Ray Lewis, LB
Baltimore's man in the middle missed the first game against the Bengals with a dislocated left elbow. He'll be easy to spot today. Lewis will be the guy who's roaming all over the field. The three-year veteran was selected for last season's Pro Bowl after recording a whopping 210 tackles, including a pair of 13-tackle efforts against Cincinnati.
Bengals running back Corey Dillon helped spark Cincinnati's rally from a 21-0 deficit in the first Ravens game, rushing for 116 yards on 25 carries. Though outside linebackers Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper are more than capable, Baltimore will rely largelly on Lewis to stifle Dillon's production. The Ravens rank only 21st in the league against the run and 21st overall on defense.