The Baltimore Ravens take on division rival Cincinnati on Thursday night from Paul Brown Stadium. Last season, the Bengals ended the Ravens playoff hopes and helped Buffalo make the playoffs on a 4th-down throw from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd to earn the 31-27 win. This year, Baltimore opened with an easy 47-3 win over Buffalo at home, while the Bengals came back to beat the Colts, 34-23 on the road.
A Smooth start in rough conditions
There’s very little advantage to the road team playing on Thursday night football. They have just one day to prepare but for the Ravens, they got off to just a huge lead against the Bills, they were able to rest most of their starters, including quarterback Joe Flacco. The quarterback out of the University of Delaware played about as well as you could expect, working in a driving rainstorm with a brand new group of receivers. Flacco went 25 of 34 for 236 yards and three touchdowns in less than three quarters of play. He threw touchdown passes to all three of his new receivers: John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead. The game got so out of hand, backup quarterback Lamar Jackson stepped in for Flacco in the third quarter.
It was tough to judge Baltimore in their opener because Buffalo was just so bad with Nathan Peterman at quarterback, playing in the rain. The Bills were so horrific on offense, they had no first downs in the first half and Peterman threw two picks to Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr. The Ravens held the Bills to just 70 passing yards and 83 rushing yards.
Last season, the Ravens struggled against the run (116ypg, 4.0ypc) and will be tested by Joe Mixon and the Bengals. But the real key to their success on defense is how they play the pass without their best cornerback Jimmy Smith, who is suspended for the first four games. Last season, he tore his Achilles’ tendon late in the season and did not play in the second game. The Ravens allowed Andy Dalton to throw for 222 yards and three TDs in the finale that cost them the playoffs. Mixon ran for 96, though A.J. Green was held to two catches and 17 yards. New defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale will have his work cut out for him. Stopping the run and get pressure on Dalton is a must.
Bengals spoil Luck’s return
Cincinnati is not an afterthought but they don’t get the respect that Baltimore and Pittsburgh do in the AFC North because they haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. They’ve held on to their corps with Dalton and Green back for their eighth consecutive season. Dalton helped lead the Bengals back from a 23-10 third-quarter deficit to win 34-23. His 38-yard touchdown pass to Green late in third quarter began the comeback. An 83-yard fumble recovery return by Clayton Fejedelem sealed the win with 24 seconds left in the game as the Colts were driving. He was in the game because starting safety Shawn Williams was ejected due to a helmet-to-helmet hit on Luck.
Dalton completed 21 of 28 for 243 yards with two TDs and one pick against the Colts, while Mixon ran for 95 yards and one TD on 17 attempts. Green caught six passes for 92 yards, while Mixon added five catches for 54 yards. The Bengals struggled against the pass, allowing 305 yards but they sacked Luck twice and picked him off once.
Cincinnati finished 7-9 last season, even though they wound up winning their last two games. The problem started on offense and really with the offensive line. Despite having Dalton, Green and Mixon, the Bengals finished last on offense in the NFL with 280.5 yards per game. They put up 330 yards against the Colts last week, which is a start. Running the football with Mixon will be key for the Bengals, who need to be better on third downs (33.7%) than they were last year.
- 4-0 Over last 4 vs. AFC North.
- 4-0 Over last 4 vs. AFC.
- 9-4 ATS last 13 vs. Ravens at home.
- 12-3 ATS last 15 vs. AFC North.
- 5-1 ATS last 6 in Week 2