Sunday, November 10, 2002

The Edge



By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Quarterbacks

Jeff Blake has tried to downplay his first career start against his former team. Bengals players better hope they're right that Blake will falter because he's trying too hard. Jon Kitna has two of the best games of his career in succession, six touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 78-percent completion rate. The skeptical would say he's due for three picks.

Edge: Bengals

Running Backs

Jamal Lewis is one of the best young tailbacks in the game, and the Bengals can expect to see 20-25 rushing attemps from Lewis. This game could hinge on which back has best game. Whatever he's asked to do on the field, Corey Dillon does it well - run, block, catch. Nice to see backup Brandon Bennett get some work. FB Lorenzo Neal's having great season.

Edge: Bengals

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Tight end Todd Heap has emerged from Shannon Sharpe's enormous shadow and is the Ravens' leading receiver with 33 catches, a 10.7 average and four TDs. A three-man rotation of Chad Johnson, Peter Warrick and Michael Westbrook has emerged at the top of the Bengals' depth chart and can only help Kitna maintain consistency.

Edge: Ravens

Offensive Line

The competition between Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden and Bengals defensive end Justin Smith should be a lot of fun to watch. Baltimore has a young line other than Ogden. Right tackle Willie Anderson is having a Pro Bowl season, and this proud group has corrected its ills by opening running room and keeping Kitna free from sacks and too much pressure.

Edge: Bengals

Defensive Line

Ravens switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 to better match personnel. Good move. This group isn't what it used to be but has been doing its job this season better than the Bengals' defensive line. End Vaughn Booker's absence hurts run defense. Tackle Oliver Gibson continues to commit one costly penalty a game. Stop putting Justin Smith in pass coverage and point him at QB.

Edge: Ravens

Linebackers

Ray Lewis is out for a fifth consecutive game, but replacement Edgerton Hartwell has stepped in to lead the team with 74 tackles. Super Bowl holdover Peter Boulware has five sacks. Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons are having solid seasons, although the big plays haven't been there from linebackers. Canute Curtis has returned to the lineup and played well.

Edge: Bengals

Defensive Backs

The Ravens have two rookies starting at safety. They're well coached but are still rookies. Game could hinge on cornerback Chris McAlister's ability to play well on injured ankle. The Bengals need to have big games from cornerbacks Artrell Hawkins and Jeff Burris. Jeff Blake will test them with deep passes. Safeties can't delay in getting over to help.

Edge: Even

Coaching

Brian Billick and has staff don't have the talent they used to, but they are doing a magnificent teaching job and have brought an inexperienced team along faster and better than expected. Dick LeBeau didn't make any guarantee this week. Credit him for trying something new last week. He's banking on the steady improvement of his team to give it a chance today.

Edge: Ravens

Overall

Baltimore has one of the league's most distinct home-field advantages. Even the Bengals say that injured linebacker Ray Lewis is still a factor as a coach/motivator on the sidelines. The Bengals offensive explosion is likely to be stalled today by a well-coached Ravens defense. The Ravens have too much on the line to let the Bengals come into their stadium and pull the upset.

Edge: Ravens

Curnutte's prediction: Ravens 23, Bengals 17



BENGALS / NFL
Ravens 38, Bengals 27
Blake empathizes with former mates
Bengals' defense will need to step up once again
The Edge
Isolation booth: Johnson vs. Demps
Levi: Life as a Rookie
Bengals, Ravens stats
Bengals-Ravens by the numbers
NFL notebook, standings
Are you ready for some Monday Night Football history?
Curnutte's NFL power rankings


UC BEARCATS
Sloppy UC still slams NKU
Daugherty: Wrath - not grapes - seems more Huggins' style
Center position still work in progress
UC women win C-USA soccer crown

XAVIER HOOPS
Cole ponders redshirt season
XU women win exhibition

REDS / BASEBALL
Bowden mum regarding free agent wish list
Reds Q & A
Phils set to spend on Thome

OHIO FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
Elder, Colerain at Nippert Saturday
Where to buy football tickets
Elder 31, Wayne 3
Colerain 28, Lebanon 7
Ohio scores | Ohio pairings
Fans enjoy atmosphere at Paul Brown Stadium
Kings 36, Edgewood 19
Reading 41, Coldwater 38

KENTUCKY FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
Kentucky scores | Kentucky pairings
CovCath 54, Harrison Co. 6
Beechwood 55, Fairview 7
Boone Co. 34, Oldham Co. 28
Dixie Heights 43, Lou. Ballard 41
Eastern 22, Conner 7
Highlands 56, Anderson Co. 0
Holy Cross 35, Nicholas Co. 14
Lex. Catholic 52, Holmes 20
Lloyd 51, East Carter 20
Louisville Trinity 48, Ryle 9
NewCath 57, Paris 14
Russell 31, Newport 14
Scott 53, Bourbon Co. 22

INDIANA FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
East Central 38, Whiteland 30


OHIO VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Ursuline unseats St. Ursula as Div. I champs
GGCL players rule all-state team

OHIO SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIPS
St. Ursula loses soccer final
Wyoming girls denied soccer title
Madeira boys win state title

KENTUCKY CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
St. Henry boys take cross country title
Highlands girls run to state title

PREP INSIDER COLUMN
Prep Insider: Late coach was ahead of his time


COLLEGE FOOTBALL
With backs to wall, Buckeyes battle to 11-0
Hail Mary heave halts fun for UK
Bowen corners market at Miami
Huskies stun BGSU, take first in division
Mount St. Joseph thumped by undefeated Hanover 49-14
Miami crushes Vols
Texas shows Baylor some attitude
Texas A&M ruins party for Sooners
Irish escape Navy
Syracuse topples No. 8 Virginia Tech in 3OT
Big Ten roundup
Top 25 roundup
How the Top 25 fared
College Football Today

COLLEGE HOOPS
Hoops: Big matchups come early, often
Dayton player's parents don't believe son lied

REGIONAL INTERESTS
MSJ football finally growling
Five questions with Brandon Miree
Enquirer Page Two power rankings

NATIONAL HEADLINES
Dredge leads Volvo Masters
Mighty Ducks blank Barons
Kolzig slams door on Flyers
Second-half scoring surge lifts Pacers over Raptors
Women's soccer: U.S. 2, Canada 1
Serena Williams, Capriati advance to WTA semis
Will Fittipaldi be first of new wave of drivers?
Stewart on cusp of Cup title

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