The dawn of the 2017 NFL season is upon us, finally. The Baltimore Ravens have had one of the more tumultuous off-seasons we have seen in recent history from any pro football team. The franchise had a number of injuries, two players retire, and a few more have been suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The Cincinnati Bengals on the other hand lost veteran leadership on their offensive line, and within their top two defensive players. All that matters now is that the rosters are set and both teams will try to navigate to a AFC North title, and potentially a Super Bowl.
How the Bengals win:
The Bengals have been one of the better offenses over the past five years. The franchise has made the playoffs from 2012-2015, and although they missed it last year, the Bengals now contain rookie running back Joe Mixon in backfield now. Mixon will be the key to this team in terms of scoring points, as the defense will be focused on bracketing A.J. Green, and keeping him from making big plays. Andy Dalton is going to have to protect the football in this game, as the Ravens defense will likely be very aggressive and opportunistic. The Bengals have had the Ravens number the past few years, so expect head coach Marvin Lewis to dust off the tapes from past matchups to use as a template.
How the Ravens win:
This will be Joe Flacco’s first piece of action since week 17 of 2016 that was, ironically, against the Bengals. Flacco (back issues) will have all eyes on him to see if he’s able to use that big arm and stretch the field with Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace. The running game will be paramount for this offense so they can try to take the pressure off of Flacco; He led the league in passing attempts, but the Ravens could only muster an 8-8 record.
The Ravens defense will have to get a solid pass rush to make Andy Dalton uncomfortable, as he is known to make mistakes when under pressure. The defense will set the tone early for this game, and I would expect John Harbaugh to put his defense on the field first if they win the toss. As long as the offense protects the ball and makes use of the opportunities the defense gives them, they will succeed.
Game Prediction: Ravens 24, Bengals 17
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