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Daily Banter: Bengals/Ravens Could Become Division's Great Rivalry

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Sunday's win was a great win against a good opponent. It wasn't easy nor was it pretty. The Baltimore Ravens are annually one of the best defensive teams in the NFL. Adding weapons like Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, brought expectations of an improved offense that already had Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason and Ray Rice. To say Cincinnati's 15-10 win over Baltimore was a tough win would be an understatement. It was a knock 'em out, drag 'em out MMA bloodfest. Cincinnati earned this win, beating an opponent that many projected would win the division.

But honestly, the Ravens are a great opponent for the Bengals, simply because both teams are beginning to mirror each other with a strong defense and a frustrating offense.

I know the Ravens primary rival is the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I don't mind. Every team has a big-time rival and they haven't been our biggest since Art Modell moved them to Baltimore. Don't get me wrong, they're still our rivals. But do the Ravens and their fans view the Bengals as their biggest rival, or the Steelers? But you get the feeling that within the next few years, as things are (and I'm not talking about winning streaks), the Bengals and Ravens will continue their string of great games, fueled by fire as their rivalry continues to develop.

It's a shame the rematch will take place on the final week of the season. It'll be great if the game determines the AFC North champion, but that rarely happens. However, if it does come down to that, it could be the most epic regular season game we've played this century.

It was a great win, mostly because it reinforced our original expectations. After losing to New England, falling behind 31-3 early in the third quarter, fans were really thrown. We weren't sure if this was a glimpse into the season or an aberration because the team wasn't ready to play. I admit it, I was nervous after losing to the Patriots. Having been thrown as much as we were, I wasn't sure how to react. Sunday's win gave fans peace of mind in that the defense is alright and the Bengals can win close ones again, much like 2009, against good opponents.

You may find more things to chirp about that's wrong with the Bengals, but not me. Not right now. Beating a division rival for the third straight time, including an eight game winning streak in the AFC North, makes me happy. No, I'm fraking giddy.

+ Cincinnati's 15-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens was the fifth time in franchise history the team didn't score a touchdown and won the game. The last being against the Baltimore Ravens in 2007 when Shayne Graham converted seven field goals.

+ Mike Nugent is having a great start with the Bengals. After kicking a 54-yard field goal against the Patriots last week, second longest kick in franchise history. His second career Bengals game, he converts five field goals and is the only person to score against the Ravens on Sunday.

+ The Bengals defense has picked off Joe Flacco eight times in the past three games.

+ Carson Palmer attempted 20 passes to Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, only coming away with seven receptions.

+ Chick Ludwig says that Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski is on the hot seat.

“We’ve got to do a better job of scoring in the red zone,” head coach Marvin Lewis said. “We had a lot of opportunities, and we’re moving in a lot of pieces (in terms of personnel). We’ve got to take a look at how we might be killing our own rhythm with a lot of the moving parts we’ve got going on now. I think guys will get better with it as we go, but it can be a little bit unnerving, to me at least, and I’m sure everyone else.”

+ Adam Jones' interception Sunday was the first since December 2006.

+ Baltimore Sun's Kevin VanValkenburg writes that Flacco "isn't making the kind of progress that everyone believed he would."

Flacco seems to have the most trouble against Cover-2 defenses like the ones the Bengals and the Colts play. The corners play aggressive and sit on his favorite routes to the sidelines, the safeties and linebackers know he won't, or can't, beat them by throwing in the middle of the field, and so the windows where he feels comfortable throwing are pretty small. His first interception was a good aggressive play by Adam Jones. His second pick was a dying quail that was either the worst throw he'll make all season (you'd hope), or T.J. Houshmandzadeh ran the wrong route. I watched it four times and I'm still not sure which it was.