NFL week one and all of its glory is finally upon us. The Cincinnati Bengals will open their 2014 campaign on the road in Baltimore against the Ravens. Opening against the Ravens, an AFC North division opponent, will give the Bengals a good test to see where they are to start the year. The Ravens may not be as mighty as they were just a few seasons ago when they won the Super Bowl, but any division game is a must-win, no matter how early in the season.
The Bengals main concern going into this game is getting their starters back to 100 percent health. The offensive line is a little banged up, and Andre Smith’s status for the opener is still unknown. Smith did not play in a preseason game due to concussion protocol. Having all the guys healthy that are protecting quarterback Andy Dalton is important if the Bengals want to have offensive success. It’s also vital for them to have great run blocking all season because with the duo of Giovani Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill in the backfield, this team can have a vicious running game.
On the defensive side of things, it is critical that corner back Leon Hall and defensive tackle Geno Atkins come back from their injuries last year and make an impact right away. Hall will be lining up against receiver Steve Smith, who the Ravens acquired from the Panthers this offseason. Rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard will have his hands full with the other Smith, Torrey Smith. After off years last season, Ray Rice and Joe Flacco are going to be looking to bounce back, and the Bengals defense will need to do their job to contain the Ravens offense.
The unveiling of the new Bengals offense under new coordinator Hue Jackson is going to be exciting. Expect to see a lot of different schemes and personnel to confuse the Ravens defense. Jackson has so many tools to play with, from a deep receiver corps to talented, young and punishing running backs, to two tight ends in Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert who can both block and run routes and catch the ball with exceptional talent. Jackson is good at knowing his players strengths, and if he can use each of his players to the best of their potential, this offense is going to be something exciting to watch all season.
Quarterback play is going to be the key to the game on Sunday. Dalton and Flacco have both under performed against each other’s teams, and Dalton has yet to win a game in Baltimore.The main reason for their struggles is they have gone against two very tough defenses, but I give the Bengals the edge in the defensive battle on Sunday.
This Bengals team is one of if not the most talented team they have had in the history of the franchise. It’s up to Andy Dalton and the offense to get it done on Sunday, and I believe they will.
Prediction: Bengals 20, Ravens 13