An AFC North battle between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens will kick off Monday Night Football in the 2012 NFL season, and Joe Flacco’s performance will decide whether Baltimore wins or loses.
These two teams are known for stout defense, but the Ravens are looking to reform their offense this season and let Flacco take more responsibility for the unit. ESPN’s John Clayton writes:
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron plans to let Flacco take more leadership on the field and let him use more no-huddle. Although the Ravens don’t plan to abandon the run, they will be running a quicker offense.
Flacco is thrilled with the changes and he told the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson the following:
I love the no-huddle. We’ve got to get quicker and quicker at it. I like to go up there and run a play, run a play, run a play. That’s what we’re going to be, and I think we have to make sure we get it as fast as we can.
Flacco ranked 10th among all quarterbacks last season in attempts, and he is set to take on the burden of more throws. In past seasons, his main responsibility was to avoid mistakes and let the defense win the game.
Now, his leash has been loosened and he is expected to be more than a game manager. In the no-huddle, Flacco has to make the necessary reads and adjustments at the line of scrimmage, and ensure that his entire offense stays in sync.
Now that the mental aspect of running the Ravens offense will be more difficult for Flacco, and he will be throwing more often, there is significantly more opportunities for mistakes.
The Bengals have two physical cornerbacks in Leon Hall and Nate Clements, as well as two athletic safeties in Taylor Mays and Reggie Nelson. If Flacco makes the wrong reads or starts throwing errant passes, the Cincinnati secondary will punish him.
Even without Terrell Suggs, the Ravens defense is still capable of winning games when the offense avoids crucial errors. But now, the team appears confident that Flacco is capable of turning the offense into a high-scoring unit.
Baltimore has never ranked higher than 13th in points scored across a season under Flacco, and the changes this offseason suggest that the team is looking to change that.
The ball will be in Flacco’s hands against Cincinnati, and he is capable of putting up impressive numbers and dozens of points. However, the increased responsibility comes with the added risk of costly turnovers.
If Flacco avoids interceptions and has a completion percentage more than 60 percent, the Ravens will win. If he is inaccurate with his passes and turns the ball over, Cincinnati will take this division battle.