A game is never won on paper, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to talk about which team is better on paper. This Sunday, the Bengals will take on the Ravens in the season opener. It’s sure to be an exciting game featuring many new players on both sides of the field.
In this post we’ll take a look at which team has the advantage when stacked against the other.
Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco are both coming off disappointing seasons. Dalton finished with 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, while Flacco had 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 2016. Both threw for more than 4,000 yards while completing close to 65 percent of their passes.
Both quarterbacks suffered from a lack of talent around them for a lot of the season. A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert only appeared on the field together for three games. Meanwhile, the Ravens had issues all throughout the offense.
People around the league have a tendency to overate Flacco and underrate Dalton, when the reality is they are far closer to the same talent level than people think.
Running back: Bengals
Taking into account all the running backs on the depth chart, it is hard to go against the Bengals. Even though Jeremy Hill is listed as the starter, I expect a healthy dose of Giovani Bernard and Joe Mixon in this game.
The Ravens have an interesting group with Terrance West, who is probably doing better than people expect, and Danny Woodhead. Woodhead adds a whole new dimension to this team in the passing game, but when you stack it up against the fact the Bengals have three pretty good (okay maybe two pretty good and one alright) running backs the Bengals get the slight edge here.
Receivers and tight ends: Bengals
The two reasons the Bengals get the edge here are easy to see. Green and Eifert. The Ravens have a pretty deep group of receivers and Benjamin Watson at tight end, but none of them are in the discussion for being the best in the league. Jeremy Maclin is a big name, but he lost his job in Kansas City before being brought onto the Ravens.
Green and Eifert make this an easy choice as no Ravens receiver or tight end is close to the league’s best as both of these Bengals are.
Offensive line: Ravens
Similar to Receivers and tight ends these groups are pretty similar between these two teams. The difference is Baltimore has two very talented players along the line in Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley.
The Ravens have a pretty beat up offensive line after sustaining plenty of injuries and a surprise retirement from John Urschel, who was projected to be their starting center. However, the Bengals don’t seem to be any better off. Cedric Ogbuehi is still a question mark going into the season, but we haven’t seen too many promising signs from him yet, and Russell Bodine is still set to start. The most reliable player on the Bengals’ offensive line is Clint Boling, but considering the rest of the line, the Ravens look to have the better unit. Still, the Bengals’ pass rushers should have a good day on Sunday to start the season on a high note.
Defensive line: Bengals
It helps that the Ravens consider Terrell Suggs a linebacker, but the Bengals’ defensive line is still up there with the Ravens’. Brandon Williams is obviously the biggest name along Baltimore’s defensive line. He is one of the best at clogging up the middle and making it difficult to run.
The Bengals have spent the offseason rebuilding the depth along the defensive line. They added Jordan Willis and Chris Smith who both had very productive preseasons. Plus Andrew Billings returns after missing his entire rookie season. I haven’t even mentioned Geno Atkins or Carlos Dunlap yet. This one was pretty easy to pick.
As mentioned, Suggs is technically considered a linebacker, and even though he is turning 35 this season, he remains one of the premiere pass rushers in this league. Additionally, Vontaze Burfict isn’t being included in this since he will be serving the first of his three-game suspension.
The Ravens also have C.J. Mosley who has proved he is one of the better linebackers in the league. The Bengals will field Nick Vigil, Kevin Minter and Vincent Rey on Sunday. While that is a solid unit, it isn’t competing with what the Ravens are rolling out.
I had a hard time with this one. I think both teams are fairly close at safety. The Ravens added Tony Jefferson to go with Eric Weddle, but George Iloka is still one of the best kept secrets in the NFL.
It ultimately came down to the fact we don’t know exactly what the Bengals have with Darqueze Dennard starting and William Jackson paying in his first regular season game. The Bengals will also be missing Shawn Williams due to a hyper-extended elbow.
The Ravens also have Marlon Humphreys who will be playing in his first game, as well as Brandon Carr, which was just enough to give the Ravens the advantage.
The Bengals and Ravens each finished with advantages in three areas while being equal at quarterback. These teams seem to be pretty close in talent, which should make for a great game on Sunday for Week 1 in the NFL.