Are you ready for some football?
Frankly, it doesn’t matter because the inaugural week of the NFL season will come to an end September 10th when the Cincinnati Bengals roll into M&T Bank Stadium to square off against their divisional rivals, the Baltimore Ravens to kickoff a Monday night double dip on ESPN.
September 10th has been an auspicious date for the Bengals in the past, especially against the Ravens. Back in 2007, on that very date, the orange and black started their season the right way with a 27-20 win over Baltimore at Paul Brown Stadium. It’s no surprise to see these two teams lockup in Week 1 since, over the last 10 years, the Ravens are tied with the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns for most opening week games against the Bengals (2).
Regardless of the opponent though, Week 1 hasn’t been kind to the Bengals during the Marvin Lewis era. Overall, Cincinnati is 4-5 on opening weekend and 3-3 when those games are on the road. To make matters worse, the Bengals are a less-than-stellar 9-19 on Monday Night Football, but they did win their only Monday night encounter against Baltimore. Historically, it’s a push, but Who Dey Nation has to feel wary when they see these uninspiring stats.
The Ravens lead the overall series 18-14 so this divisional rivalry is anything but lopsided; still, these two rarely split their annual one-and-one. Since 2007, the season series has only been split once, which means the winner of the first encounter wins 80% of the time over the last 5 seasons.
Of course, since 2010, Baltimore has had the “winning” part covered; the Bengals go into Monday night with a winless record against Baltimore in their last three encounters, but every game since 2007 has been decided by only one score (Largest margin of victory: 8 points in the Ravens’ 24-16 victory over the Bengals last season).
THE CRUCIAL STATS
- Since 2009, the team that leads going into halftime has won 5 of the last 6 meetings, yielding an 83% win percentage.
- The Ravens are winless against the Bengals when their QB Joe Flacco throws at least 2 interceptions.
- Baltimore’s record against Cincinnati when RB Ray Rice rushes for more than 100 yards: 2-0
- Baltimore’s record when Rice doesn’t hit the century mark: 3-3 (.500)
- MOST SURPRISING: Ravens DT Haloti Ngata has never recorded a sack against the Bengals.
- Jacoby Jones – Baltimore swooped in and picked up the young speedster, Jones from the Houston Texans this offseason to add more explosion both at the slot positon and on special teams. While Jones only has a handful of kicks and punts returned for touchdowns, his speed and agility is unquestionable. Bengals-Ravens is one of the most evenly matched pairings in recent history so a well-timed kick return could easily swing the momentum and give Baltimore a shiny Week 1 W.
- Bernard Pierce – What’s not to like about Pierce? He’s got prototypical tailback size with a low center of gravity and he comes from a relatively smaller college program (Temple), which often breeds a hard work ethic and a yeoman-like, “May I score the rock, sir?”-demeanor. All eyes will be on Ray Rice, as they should be, but the Bengal defense better not take a play off when Pierce is in the backfield or he will give them a very punishing handful of carries and possibly snag a surprise touchdown.
- Courtney Upshaw – Upshaw is the longshot, especially since he is listed as questionable for Monday’s game and awaiting an MRI on Friday after injuring his shoulder during the Ravens’ final preseason game against the St. Louis Rams. Still, Upshaw has the pedigree, coming from an Alabama linebacking corp that easily contends with Penn State’s best all-time prospects and the lightning-quick, hard-hitting backers of Miami University at the turn of the millenium. Upshaw recorded 1 sack in the preseason already, but that number will certainly grow. He is a definite dark horse for Defensive Rookie of the Year if he stays healthy.
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Green-Ellis mostly rode the bench during the preseason, which was unfortunate and ill-timed considering the anemic performance of his understudies. The Ravens’ once-young, inexperienced corners, Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams have come into their own so Bengals QB Andy Dalton won’t be able to air it out all night long. The Baltimore defensive front seven is always intimidating, but Cincinnati could really make a powerful statement by running it down the Ravens’ throats and controlling the tempo of the game.BenJarvus is a banger, so he’s certainly good for that, but if he wants to fill the shoes of former tailback, Cedric Benson, he will need do more than simply match his career-high 4.4 yards-per-carry average this season.
- Anyone Not Named A.J. Green – Marvin Jones didn’t respond to my tweet this weekend; I assume it’s because he’s too busy preparing for Ed Reed and the Ravens secondary. That better be the case for the rest of the Bengal receivers because a lackluster performance on their part could mean a lot of double-teams for Green and a tough night for Dalton and the Cincinnati offense.
- Geno Atkins – Haloti Ngata won’t be the only big bruiser on the D-line Monday night; not if the massive third-year man out of Georgia has anything to do with it. Atkins came on strong last year with 7.5 sacks – including one against the Ravens – bringing his 2-year total to 10.5. Atkins and nose tackle, Domata Peko will have the biggest responsibility of the night: containing Ray Rice. If they do, the Bengals could definitely find themselves walking out of Baltimore with a win.