The Ravens will try to rebound Sunday when they host Carson Palmer and the surprising Bengals in a meeting between the AFC North leaders.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made the Ravens -9 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 60% of bets for this game have been placed on the Ravens -9 (View NFL bet percentages).
Baltimore (3-1) committed a season-high nine penalties in a 27-21 loss at New England in Week 4. The Ravens were twice flagged for late hits on quarterback Tom Brady and each penalty led to a Patriots' touchdown, prompting linebacker Ray Lewis to claim it was "an embarrassment to the game."
The Ravens must get past their frustration and focus on a key matchup with the Bengals (3-1), as sole possession of the division lead is at stake.
"You can't let the emotions linger," center Matt Birk said. "You can't afford to do anything else but move on and be in tune for the next one. Otherwise, it can snowball on you."
Cincinnati was in that position in Week 1, losing 12-7 to Denver as a tipped pass led to an 87-yard touchdown with 11 seconds to play. The Bengals put that behind them, winning three in a row with the last two coming in dramatic fashion.
Shayne Graham hit a 31-yard field goal with four seconds left in overtime in a 23-20 win at Cleveland last Sunday after his extra point attempt with 1:55 to play in regulation was blocked.
The Bengals' stunning resurgence has been centered around a healthy Palmer, who missed 12 games last season with an elbow injury.
He doesn't have particularly good numbers - his 75.2 passer rating is 24th in the league - but his late-game heroics have been vital over the last two weeks.
Palmer hit Chad Ochocinco on a 2-yard TD pass prior to Graham's miss against Cleveland, and he set up the winning field goal by scrambling 15 yards on fourth-and-11. A week earlier, he rallied Cincinnati to two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including an improvised TD pass to Andre Caldwell with 14 seconds left, to beat Pittsburgh 23-20.
"To be honest, I'm not really sure how calm or un-calm I am," Palmer said. "There are so many things going through your head from play to play and from one second to the next. I like being in that, and we like being in that as an offense. You control your own destiny when you have the ball last."
The Ravens also are getting strong play under center.
Second-year starter Joe Flacco has completed 95 of 151 passes for 1,103 yards with eight TDs and three interceptions. That's a vast improvement from his first four games as a rookie, when he was 62 for 106 for 603 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.
"I think the main thing has been his leadership," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "He's being more assertive in the huddle as a quarterback. I think all the great quarterbacks have been leaders, and Joe is lining himself up to be one of the great quarterbacks."
Flacco, though, is looking to rebound from last week's shaky performance. He went 27 for 47 for 264 yards with two touchdowns, but threw a key interception at the Patriots' 9 just before halftime.
He may be without a key member of his line following a scary injury to left tackle Jared Gaither last week.
Gaither was completing a block, but the momentum of Ty Warren's hit on Flacco - who had already released the ball - carried the two into the lineman's head and shoulders. The 6-foot-9, 340-pound Gaither was on the ground for 10 minutes and was removed on a stretcher, but he had motion in both legs and arms.
"We're real hopeful," coach John Harbaugh said. "It could be he could play this week because it's not a serious injury as far as we know right now. It could be a couple of weeks, it could be longer. It's wait and see."
Flacco was solid in helping the Ravens beat Cincinnati twice last season, throwing for 409 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"All the things he was doing last year he's doing this year, only better," Harbaugh said. "Across the board, we're able to attack people in more ways than we did at any time last year and that's because Joe is executing more things well."
Palmer won six of his first eight starts against the Ravens before enduring one of his worst performances in his only game against them last year, going 9 of 24 for 94 yards with an interception in a 17-10 season-opening loss at Baltimore.
Posted: 10/7/09 11:16PM ET