NFL Week 1: Ravens-Bengals Preview

, , ,

Here’s what you need to know about this weeks Week 1 match-up between the Ravens and the Bengals.

WHAT: Week One at Cincinnati Bengals
WHEN: 1 p.m.; Sunday, September 10
WHERE: Paul Brown Stadium; Cincinnati (65,535)
2016 RECORDS: Ravens, 8-8; Bengals, 6-9-1
LIFETIME SERIES: Tied, 21-21; Bengals have won five straight meetings at home, 7 of last 9 overall.
TV: WJZ-TV (Channel 13) (Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta, booth; Melanie Collins, sidelines)
RADIO: WIYY-FM, 97.9 (Gerry Sandusky, Stan White, Dennis Pitta)

REFEREE: Walt Coleman


Courtesy Cincinnati Bengals

-The Bengals will wear white jerseys and white pants for this game, a combination in which they have gone 20-26 since 2004–the team’s worst record for any color scheme over that span. That will likely put the Ravens in purple jerseys and white pants.

-The Bengals were born in 1968 as an American Football League expansion franchise and will begin their 50th season this week. The franchise has appeared in the playoffs 14 times in 49 years, including nine division titles (most recent: 2015). They have played in two Super Bowls (XVI, XXIII), losing both to the San Francisco 49ers, but have not won a postseason game since 1990.

-The Ravens and Bengals will meet again Dec. 31 in Baltimore, breaking a string of six straight years that has seen the return match played in Cincinnati. The Ravens have swept the head-to-head series six times (none since 2011) while the Bengals have also recorded six sweeps. There have been nine splits.

-Former Ravens’ defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis is now the Bengals’ head coach, and is about to begin his 15th season. He is second in NFL head-coaching seniority next to the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick (18). Lewis took Cincinnati to the playoffs for a franchise-record five straight seasons (2011-15) and is the winningest coach in team history (113-94-3, .545 regular season, 0-7 postseason). Lewis is 17-11 against Baltimore.

Courtesy alchetron

-Last season, the Bengals endured an eight-week stretch in November and December that saw them win only twice, losing five times with one tie. The losses came by a total of 16 points, an average of just over three per game.

-In 2016, Cincinnati was mostly a middle-of-the-pack team statistically, finishing 13th in total offense (17th rushing, 14th passing, 24th scoring) and 17th in total defense.

-The Bengals didn’t hurt themselves with mistakes last year, committing only 88 penalties, tied with the New York Giants for second-fewest in the league–one behind Houston. They lost just three fumbles all season, tied for the league low, and had a modest plus-3 turnover ratio.

– Seventh-year quarterback Andy Dalton could not replicate his 2015 Pro Bowl year, but he threw a career-low eight interceptions in 2016 and completed 64.7 percent of his passes, playing to a passer rating of 91.8. Against the Ravens, he is 6-5 with a career rating of 77.1. Dalton is one of only three quarterbacks to lead a team to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons; the others are Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Seattle’s Russell Wilson.

-Cincinnati lost two veteran offensive linemen in Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, but many skill-position standouts return, including leading rusher Jeremy Hill (839 yards), running mates Giovani Bernard and second-round rookie Joe Mixon, tight end Tyler Eifert and wideouts Brarndon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and AJ Green.

-Green missed the final six weeks of 2016 with a hamstring injury and did not play against Baltimore in either meeting. But in his last five games against the Ravens, he has accumulated 32 catches with six touchdowns, averaging approximately 17 yards per reception.

-Defensively, Cincinnati finished with a flourish last season, not allowing a first-half touchdown in the season’s last 23 possessions; they also allowed only 15 points per game over the final seven weeks. They have good size in the front seven, led by sack artists Geno Atkins (nine) and Carlos Dunlap (eight), who will take aim at the Ravens’ spotty offensive line. Atkins has 52 sacks since 2010, which is the most among NFL defensive tackles.

-The Bengals would like to create more turnovers with their secondary, which produced only eight interceptions last year. Safeties George Iloka and Shawn Williams, along with cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, picked off three passes each.

Courtesy Cincy Jungle

-Kicker Randy Bullock assumed the duties over the last three games of 2016, kicking five of six field goals, none longer than 43 yards.

-Punter Kevin Huber was victimized by poor punt coverage by his teammates last year. His 46.3 gross average (ninth-best in the league) was hampered by a 39.5 net rate (21st). Second-year returner Alex Erickson averaged 27.9 per kick return (second in the league), but only 7.0 on punts (19th). Over the last 14 years, Cincinnati has four lost fumbles on punt returns, the lowest figure in the league.

PREDICTION: Even though Cincinnati won’t have linebacker Vontaze Burfict, cornerback Adam “Pac-Man” Jones or Ross for this game, they have had the Ravens’ number on their home field. The celebration of the team’s 50th season will provide extra motivation against an offensively-challenged Ravens team that has seen Flacco play to a 61.2 rating in Cincinnati with five touchdowns and 12 interceptions. And that was when he was healthier than he is now. Baltimore’s defense is stout, but will it survive being on the field so much when its offensive teammates can’t sustain drives?

Bengals 20, Ravens 17


About Joe Platania

Veteran beat writer, Joe Platania, is entering his 39th year in Baltimore media. He covers sports with insight, humor, and prescient eye. A former longtime member in good standing of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and the Pro Football Writers of America, Platania manned the CFL Stallions beat for The Avenue Newspaper Group of Essex (1994 and ’95) and the Ravens beat since the team’s inception — one of only three local writers to do so — for PressBox, The Avenue, and other local publications and radio stations. A sought-after contributor and host on talk radio and TV, he often appears on “Inside PressBox” (10:30 a.m. Sundays) and he can be heard at 10 a.m. Saturdays on the “Purple Pride Report,” WQLL-AM (1370). He has also appeared on WMAR-TV’s “Good Morning Maryland” (2009), Comcast SportsNet’s “Washington Post Live” (2004-06), and WJZ-TV’s “Football Talk” postgame show — with legend Marty Bass (2002-04). Platania is the only sports journalist in Maryland history to have been a finalist for both the annual Sportscaster of the Year award (1998, which he won) and Sportswriter of the Year (2010). He is also a four-time Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association award winner. Platania is a graduate of St. Joseph’s (Cockeysville), Calvert Hall College High School, and Towson University, where he earned a degree in Mass Communications. He lives in Cockeysville, MD.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *