Few people in their right mind will be picking the Bengals over the Ravens this weekend. On paper the Ravens look as if they cannot be stopped. Fortunately for everyone games are not played on paper. Divisional football is usually over hyped, but the Bengals-Ravens have always been a close game. A couple years ago, Carson had his breakout game against the Ravens throwing multiple TD passes late in the 4th over Ed Reed with his laser arm. This game has traditionally always come down to the wire and will be a chess match of a titan in the Ravens and would be titan of the Bengals. This game will set the tone for the rest of the season.
Whats at Stake:
If the Ravens win, they will have a firm lead in the AFC division taking a 3-0 division lead as well as a division best 4-1. Ravens then have a tough team in the Vikings and then the Broncos and then the Bengals on the road. Being 4-1 will shake off the demons from the loss to the patriots and catapult the Ravens to top of the league if they keep the momentum and beat the Vikes and Broncos. However this will be a tough stretch and can make or break the Ravens if they lose to the Bengals. Even if they split the next few games and go 4-3 there will certainly be doubts after an impressive start for the Ravens.
Just as much is at stake for the Bengals, if the Bengals win, they will be in the same situation with an impressive 4-1 start. They face the struggling Texans at Paul Brown stadium, and then they have an unproven team in the Bears. Two teams they can easily manage and be off to an impressive 6-1 start and then open up against the Ravens again off a bye in week 9. The Bengals could then handle a 7-1 or 6-2 start very easily and still be in the hunt for the title.
The Steelers always remain relevant but played soft against the Chargers last week late in the game. But they will remain relevant for the division title all season. They will certainly keep their eyes on this game of the week for the AFC North.
The Bengals 3-1 still trying to shake demons from the disappointing last season is trying to prove they are for real and are a new team. Allowing the Browns a chance to have 20 unanswered points into the 4th quarter is unacceptable for any serious title contender. And the Bengals have still yet to prove they are a powerhouse. Had they rolled the Browns, more people would be picking Bengals over Ravens. But they didn’t so they still must prove they can contend.
What advantages do the Bengals have over the Ravens? For one when the game was on the line, the Bengals pulled through 3, 4 times if you count the fluke pass to Stokely in the week 1. Lesson learned. When the game was on the line for the Ravens, they drop a pass game winning drive in the endzone.
Keys for Victory:
Furthermore the Bengals have played tougher teams than the Ravens. The Bengals contended with the Broncos, Steelers, and Packers to the very end. All 3 teams in most analysts’ power rankings top 10. The Bengals showed, and coming through in the clutch when it matters most.
Furthering favoring the Bengals is that they run a 4-3 defense. The Ravens have not faced a 4-3 defense yet this season. The Bengals have the unique advantage here, as they have already faced 3-4 defenses that the Ravens run. Extremely athletic ends for the Bengals in Geathers and Odom will prove a very capable tandem against an injured offensive line for the Ravens.
The Ravens defense ever dominant, really haven’t faced much depth at receiver like the Bengals have. The Ravens face Ocho Cinco, Coles, breakout Caldwell and deep threat Chris Henry, not to mention a very efficient Carson Palmer that is finally settling in his stride. They will spread the field and leave a vulnerable Raven 3-4 defense scrambling to protect the run with bruiser Cedric Benson.
The Bengals will have their work cut off for them stopping the run but Ray Rice and Mcgahee have yet to face a 4-3 defense with holes that close up rather quickly. Plus the Bengals gave up 100yd rushing game last week, so you can bet that this has been a point of emphasis.
More is on the line for the Bengals, in this divisional matchup than the Ravens. I give the edge to the Bengals.