Week 1 Tale Of The Tape: Baltimore Ravens At Cincinnati Bengals
- QuarterbackThe Ravens expect quite a bit more from Joe Flacco than he delivered last year. He certainly had his moments, including a four-TD game against the Miami Dolphins, but there was also quite a bit of mediocrity. Flacco has one of the strongest arms in the league and he needs to improve quite a bit on the 20-15 TD-interception ratio he had in 2016.Andy Dalton takes quite a bit of criticism because the Bengals have never won a playoff game during his tenure at quarterback. While Dalton has often appeared nervous in the playoffs and other big games, he has been a productive quarterback who is coming off a season in which he threw for 4,206 yards with an 18-8 TD-interception ratio.
- OffenseThe Ravens would like to improve their running attack this year after ranking 28th in rushing yards per game a year ago. Terrance West is a solid interior runner who will get the bulk of the carries, but he is not the kind of back who will break long runs. Mike Wallace is a big-play receiver on the outside, but he must prove his consistency. Breshad Perriman has a hamstring issue that could slow him down.The Bengals have added rookie Joe Mixon to the running back mix that includes Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard, and Mixon could emerge as the group’s star. A.J. Green remains one of the league’s top threats at wide receiver, and tight end Tyler Eifert (knee) is capable of making big plays and is dangerous in the red zone. Explosive rookie John Ross is the X-factor on the outside.
- DefenseThe Ravens were playing sensational defense through the first three quarters of the season, but injuries in the secondary resulted in a deluge of points in the month of the season. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams is a major force on the nose, and he can destroy the interior run even when he faces double teams. Terrell Suggs is still a major force after registering 8.0 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2016.The Bengals’ defense can create quite a bit of havoc for opposing offenses, but this unit often loses its discipline and steps over the line. This unit started poorly last year before finishing with a rush in the last seven games when it gave up 15 points per game. The Bengals need defensive tackle Geno Atkins to dominate on the inside and defensive end Carlos Dunlap to bring the heat from the outside.
- Special TeamsThe Ravens have long been productive on special teams, as that area has been one of head coach John Harbaugh’s specialties throughout his career. Justin Tucker is probably the best kicker in the league after making 38-of-39 FG attempts last year, including 10-of-10 from 50 yards and beyond.The Bengals rarely have exceptional special teams, and that’s a problem when playing the Ravens because they excel in that area. PK Randy Bullock is quite ordinary and he does not have the leg to make long kicks. Kevin Huber had a 46.3-yard net average last year and is dependable.
The Bengals were done in by a slow start last year, and head coach Marvin Lewis must find a way to prevent that from happening. The Bengals open with home games against the Ravens and Texans, and they can make a statement by winning both games.