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NFL Week 1: Bengals seek back-to-back wins vs Ravens

The Bengals open at home for the first time in a decade and it’s against the team they finished the 2016 season against.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
A.J. Green
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals open the 2017 NFL season in the friendly confines of Paul Brown Stadium for the first time this decade. In doing so, they’ll face off against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 1:00 p.m ET.

Cincinnati, which finished the 2016 season with a record at 6-9-1, hopes to put those disappointing results far behind it as the Bengals look to return to their winning ways. Last season stopped a run of five consecutive trips to the playoffs, although the Bengals have still not won a playoff game under head coach Marvin Lewis as he enters his 15th season in Cincinnati.

Baltimore has not won in PBS since January 1, 2012, and has only been to the playoffs one time since then. Losses in three of their final four games last year saw the Ravens finish with a disappointing record of 8-8.

The Bengals got 2017 started on the right note, though, when they defeated the visiting Ravens by a count of 27-10 back on New Year’s Day in January. Baltimore was reeling after suffering a playoff-eliminating loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers the week prior.

Andy Dalton completed his first 10 passes in that game, one of them for a touchdown, and finished the game with 18 completions on 28 attempts, good for 226 yards and the one score. Rex Burkhead punished the proud Ravens’ defense when he ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, Burkhead is now with New England, and the Bengals drafted Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon to take his place as the team’s third string running back. Hopefully though, if all goes according to plan, Mixon will be starting soon and no longer a backup.

The Bengals had won five in a row before losing at Baltimore in the Week 12 of the 2016 season by a score of 19-14. The Bengals have won six of the last seven games the teams have played and seven of the last 10, although the overall series is all knotted up at 21 games apiece.

One of the more exciting games the teams have played recently came in 2013 when A.J. Green hauled in a 51-yard Hail Mary pass from Andy Dalton to send the contest into overtime.

Cincinnati won the overtime coin toss and marched to the Baltimore 33, but disdained the field goal attempt and turned the ball over at the Ravens’ 44 after a Giovani Bernard run on 4th-and-2 resulted in a loss of 11.

Baltimore then marched to the Cincinnati 28 before Justin Tucker drove home a 45-yard field goal to win it for the home team.

Baltimore will come into the contest led once again by a suffocating defense and a special teams unit headed up by its all-everything kicker, who some believe may be the greatest kicker of all time.

And the Ravens will need a big-time effort from its defense as its offense tries to find its footing. Baltimore will feature speedy wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who the Ravens picked up after Kansas City dropped him during the offseason. But the starting offense has only been together for one week as quarterback Joe Flacco, who missed the entire preseason, works his way back from a bad back. Like Cincinnati, Baltimore also has a lot of questions along the offensive line.

Meanwhile, the Bengals’ offense will be back at full strength for only the fourth time since the start of the 2016 season. In fact, during the past two seasons, the trio of Green, Tyler Eifert and Dalton have only started and finished 14 regular-season games together.

But, during the time that the trio has been together, the Bengals’ offense has been all but unstoppable. During those 14 games, Cincinnati has averaged 26.8 points per game, while scoring at a clip of only 20.5 points per game when at least one was absent.

And the Bengals defense has gotten younger and faster. With newcomers Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson and Chris Smith set to bolster a line that already features Pro Bowlers Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, and with a linebacking corps that boasts the additions of former Arizona Cardinals linebacker Kevin Minter and rookie linebacker Jordan Evans, this unit has the potential to recapture its standing as one of the top defenses in the National Football League.

The Bengals will most certainly miss the presence of star linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who is serving a three-game suspension, but the talent is certainly there to overcome his absence, at least in the short term.