The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals, two teams that earned the playoffs in 2011, will square off in the Monday night opener, Sept. 10, at M&T Bank Stadium. Game time is 7 p.m. ET, and ESPN will televise the contest nationally. The Ravens won the AFC North with a 12-4 mark a year ago, while the 9-7 Bengals grabbed one of the two AFC Wild Card spots.
Baltimore will look to pick up where they left off last year in New England. The Ravens finished the year going undefeated (6-0) in the AFC North Division. After beginning the season 6-2, the Cincinnati Bengals finished third in the AFC North (9-7) in 2011, but was one of three teams from the division to earn a playoff berth. It marked the Bengals’ second postseason appearance in the past three seasons. Cincinnati lost, 31-10, at the Houston Texans in the opening Wild Card round.
The Bengals’ offense ranked 20th (319.9 ypg) in 2011, including 19th in rushing (111.1 ypg) and 20th in passing (208.8 ypg). Their defense finished seventh (316.3 ypg), including the league’s ninth-best pass defense (211.6 ypg) and the 10th-ranked run stop (104.7 ypg). The Bengals recorded 45 sacks, the NFL’s fifth-most. For the ninth-consecutive year, the Ravens finished the regular season ranking in the Top 10 in total defense. Baltimore concluded 2011 as the NFL’s No. 3 defensive unit, allowing just 288.9 yards per game (92.6 rushing and 196.3 passing) however will be without reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs.
Keys to Game:
Quarterback Joe Flacco will need to audible adeptly against a stout Bengals defense. Receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones will look to attack a thin Bengals secondary.
Baltimore nose tackles need to get after Bengals second year guard Clint Boling who was inserted into the lineup on the left side when Travelle Wharton was lost for the season. Cincy has had little time to build chemistry on the offensive line and the Ravens defense could blow up their ground game early.
Baltimore’s secondary needs to lock down the Bengals dangerous wideout A.J. Green. The Ravens struggled to contain other teams number one receivers in the preseason. Cornerbacks Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith were often picked on by opposing quarterbacks, while Lardarius Webb will need to have another huge season as he looks to become of one the leagues shut down corners.
Intangibles : Ravens head coach John Harbaugh 4-0 all time in season openers. The Ravens still bring a vaunted defense that will wreak havoc when able to attack in third-and- long situations. Playing in front of their crowd on Monday night, which will be dedicated to former Ravens owner Art Modell who passed away earlier this week will prove to be too much for the Bengals.
Pick: Ravens 24 Bengals 14