Rice the go-to-goal player for Ravens

US Presswire

Ray Rice and Joe Flacco will try to lead the Ravens to their fifth straight postseason appearance.The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals kick off the 43rd season of Monday Night Football tonight (7 ET on ESPN) as the two AFC North rivals clash in a key divisional matchup.

The Ravens have won the last three meetings but the series has been quite competitive in recent years, with only two games since 2006 decided by more than 10 points. The last time the Ravens had a longer win streak against the Bengals was from 1998-2000, when they won six straight matchups.

When Baltimore has the ball

Joe Flacco has been among the most durable quarterbacks in the league, not missing a start since debuting in 2008. Flacco and Peyton Manning are the only two quarterbacks in NFL history to start every game in their first four seasons in the league.

Last season he threw for over 3,600 yards and 20 touchdowns for the third straight year, but had a career-worst 57.6 percent completion rate that ranked 26th out of 34 quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts in 2011.

Lowest Comp Pct
Throws 21+ Yds Downfield in 2011

Flacco really struggled with his accuracy on deep balls. He attempted a career-high 70 passes of more than 20 air yards last season, but also completed a career-low 24.3 percent of such throws.

Ray Rice posted career-highs in both rushing yards (1,364) and receiving yards (704) last season. How important is he to the success of the Ravens offense?

The team scored 16 of its 21 passing touchdowns and 13 of its 15 rushing touchdowns when Rice was on the field. He had 10 touchdowns in goal-to-go situations last season, the second-most in the NFL.

The Bengals struggled to defend the run in goal-to-go situations in 2011, giving up 11 touchdowns on 29 attempts, tied for the fifth-most rushing goal-to-go scores allowed.

When Cincinnati has the ball

Andy Dalton, who last season became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to win as many as eight games while throwing at least 20 touchdown passes, will try to avoid a sophomore slump this year.

Andy Dalton by Pass Rushers
2011 vs Ravens

In both games against the Ravens in 2011 he struggled against their standard pressure, completing less than 50 percent of his passes with two interceptions and no touchdowns when facing four or fewer rushers.

The Ravens defensive success in those standard pressure situations was no surprise. Last year they ranked first in completion rate and Total QBR allowed when sending four or fewer pass rushers.

However, the Ravens will be without one of their key defensive players tonight after Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon in the summer. All 48 of their sacks last year came when Suggs was in the game. The Ravens allowed only 3.4 yards per rush with Suggs on the field, compared to 5.9 when he was off the field.

Stat of the game

The Bengals last win on Monday Night Football came in 2007 when they defeated the Ravens in the season opener at Paul Brown Stadium. Their last road win on Monday night came on October 22, 1990 at Cleveland.