The Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens renew their AFC North rivalry this week when they face off in M&T Bank Stadium.
Baltimore enters the game spiraling toward a disastrous season after losing to the Oakland Raiders last week, dropping them to 0-2. A loss this week puts them at 0-3 heading to Pittsburgh for a clash with the Steelers on Thursday Night Football. In other words, if Baltimore doesn't win this game, an 0-4 start looks very likely.
It's completely different in Cincinnati after last week's win over the San Diego Chargers put them at 2-0 and atop the AFC North by a full game. They're two games ahead of the Ravens, which means a win this week puts Baltimore three games behind in the division and seemingly out of the divisional race before September even ends.
One big reason Baltimore sits at 0-2 is their offensive line has struggled mightily thus far. As Bleacher Report's Chris Roling writes (with the help of PFF), this is the biggest mismatch of this game, and something Cincinnati must take advantage of.
Also a good thing? The fact that Baltimore ranks dead last at Pro Football Focus in pass blocking. The line has already allowed two sacks, six hits and 25 hurries. Flacco crumbles when pressured or blitzed, too, as the numbers show:
Pressure Dropbacks TD INT Pff.com Rating No pressure 48 1 1 2.1 Plays under pressure 31 1 2 -3.2 When not blitzed 51 1 1 3.5 When blitzed 28 1 2 -4.6
Over at Bengals.com, Geoff Hobson crushed the numbers and found some remarkable statistics for both clubs heading into this matchup:
35-13 - Joe Flacco’s TDs-Ints. Vs. Pittsburgh and Cleveland
13-18 - Flacco’s TDs-Ints vs. Cincinnati
20-8 - Flacco’s record vs. Pittsburgh and Cleveland
7-7 - Flacco’s record vs. Cincinnati
69.6 - Flacco’s passer rating vs. Bengals
69.6 - Dalton’s passer rating vs. Ravens
17.2 - Bengals WR A.J. Green’s yards per catch in six games vs. Baltimore
17.1 - Ravens WR Steve Smith’s yards per catch in five games vs. Cincinnati
16 - Sacks at M&T Bank Stadium by Ravens OLB Elvis Dumervil since he joined the Ravens in 2013
24 - Consecutive games Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth has gone without allowing a sack since a 2013 game at M&T.
28 - Ravens’ NFL-long streak of games without allowing 100-yard rusher
The NFL.com crew is going with the Bengals as three of their four experts picked Cincinnati. However, Elliot Harrison sees the Ravens winning a thriller in overtime:
Baltimore doesn't fall to 0-3 in front of the home crowd. The Bengals have certainly been one of the best teams in pro football through two weeks, moving into the top five in the NFL.com Power Rankings this week, in fact. But on Sunday, they fall in a stadium where they've had their share of troubles over the years. Cincinnati is 2-5 versus Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Andy Dalton, who is off to a fast getoff thus far, played in four of those game, and he struggled mightily, posting eight turnovers. This has the potential to be the game of the week, with Baltimore's season on the line. Ravens win.
The guys over at CBS Sports are mostly predicting the Bengals to win, with six of their eight experts taking Cincy on the road. Pete Prisco is among those picking the Bengals as he sees Andy Dalton having a big game against a poor Ravens secondary.
The Ravens are a shocking 0-2, but they will be playing their home opener here. This is almost a must-win for the Ravens in Week 3. The Bengals are 2-0 and playing as well as any team in the league. Andy Dalton should have success against a suspect Baltimore defense.
At ESPN, their crew gives Cincinnati a slight edge with seven experts picking the Bengals and six picking the Ravens. The SB Nation crew is going with Baltimore mostly as seven of their eight experts are picking Baltimore to win at home.
Over at Odds Shark, they still have Baltimore as a 2.5-point favorite going into Sunday. Here's is a look at the recent betting trends for the Ravens and Bengals
The Ravens are 15-1 SU in their last 16 games at home in September
Cincinnati is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games
Cincinnati is 7-3 SU in its last 10 games
The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Cincinnati's last 11 games
Cincinnati is 5-2 SU in its last 7 games on the road
Baltimore is 2-5 ATS in its last 7 games
Baltimore is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games
Baltimore is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games at home
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Baltimore's last 5 games at home
As you can see from all of the above, the experts believe, if nothing else, this will be a close and competitive game that both teams will have a shot to win.
In other words, a typical AFC North game.