The 2012 NFL season is set to kickoff on Sunday, September 9, and one of the key matchups of the weekend will be the AFC North division showdown between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens.
The game will take place on Monday night prime time, on ESPN at 7:00 pm ET.
The Bengals, who managed to sneak into the playoffs last season with a 9-7 record, will be counting on second-year players Andy Dalton and A.J. Green to build on their promising rookie seasons and elevate the offense to the same level as their stout defense.
The Ravens, who were robbed from a Super Bowl appearance last season thanks to a Lee Evans drop in the end zone during the championship game, will be looking to to return to playoffs and win a Super Bowl.
There are plenty of exciting Week 1 games to keep an eye on, but this division showdown between two top-notch defenses will be on the premier games in the opening week.
Read on for spread info, moneylines and more predictions.
Spread Info and Moneylines
According to Odds Shark, the home team Ravens will enter this game at the favorites, which is certainly understandable since the Bengals have lost three of their last four games against Baltimore and haven't won in M&T Bank Stadium since 2009.
The opening predictions favored the Ravens at -7 and -113 with the spread, -255 on the moneyline.
Currently, three of the four sites features by Odds Shark has Baltimore leading the way as seven-point favorites in the spread, while one site has them as 8.5-point favorites.
All four sites favor Baltimore in the moneyline, ranging from -320 to -355.
But even though Baltimore is getting most of the respect, this is still far from a safe pick considering how much the Bengals improved last season.
The predictions found around the web favor Baltimore by a wide margin.
According to ESPN's Week 1 predictions, all 14 of their analysts who were surveyed are picking the Ravens to come out on top.
CBS Sports, who surveys eight analysts and provides one machine-generated pick, also has the Ravens coming out on top. The machine picks Baltimore, while seven of the eight analysts agree. Will Brinson picked the Bengals and is the only exception.
The Ravens will be playing without 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, who is sidelined with an Achilles injury (according to ESPN).
Even without Suggs, the Ravens have more experience on defense and will also be working with homefield advantage.
The Bengals defense finished as a top-10 unit in 2011 (316.2 yards per game), but they are also hoping second-year quarterback Andy Dalton can avoid a sophomore slump and repeat the success he had in year one.
In the end, this game will show us which each team is made of.
We will find out if Baltimore is still an elite contender, and we'll also see if the Bengals are truly a threat to win the AFC North.