Bengals vs. Ravens: Players to Watch in AFC North Monday Night Football Matchup

Alex KayCorrespondent ISeptember 10, 2012

The Baltimore Ravens are playing host to the Cincinnati Bengals in a Monday Night Football matchup that will certainly have postseason implications.

It’s going to be one of the most heated Week 1 matchups in a long time, as both teams cannot stand one another and are aware that a victory on Monday is the first step on a long journey to the AFC North crown.

Let’s take a look at the players who figure to make the biggest impact on the outcome of this game.

Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco

The Baltimore QB made the bold proclamation that he was the best in the NFL at his position this offseason. He now has a chance to prove it against a tough Bengals defense.

Fortunately for Flacco, the Bengals secondary is a work in progress (aside from Leon Hall), so there is a chance that he’ll be able to exploit the over-the-hill or inexperienced corners that his receivers will be facing.

Courtney Upshaw

Upshaw is expected to help fill the gaping hole that Terrell Suggs’ injury has created in the Ravens' defense.

Despite an injured shoulder, Upshaw is “probable” to play, according to ESPN. He'll likely come off the bench and get a significant number of snaps.

If Upshaw can be three quarters the playmaker that Suggs has been, the Ravens will have gotten an absolute steal by selecting the former Alabama standout in the second round of the 2012 draft.

Cincinnati Bengals

Taylor Mays

After getting traded to the Bengals in the 2011 preseason, Mays has had some up-and-down performances.

However, he’s worked hard in the 2012 offseason and has earned the starting strong safety job.

He has to prove that he can move his hips and play the position better, rather than rely purely on his speed and hitting ability.

Expect Ravens coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to challenge Mays quite often in this contest. How he performs will have a large impact on the outcome.

A.J. Green

Green was the best rookie wide receiver in the NFL last year, and he's looking to build on that strong campaign with a big game to open the 2012 season.

He has an amazing rapport with second-year QB Andy Dalton and should be the top target in this Monday Night matchup.

The former Georgia Bulldog struggled in his only outing against the Ravens in 2011, recording just two catches for 26 yards.

He has to find a way to break free and score some TDs if the Bengals are going to emerge victorious.