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Bengals Weekly Lineman: Jonah Williams has first of many battles with Odafe Oweh

A rivalry within a rivalry is developing.

Cincinnati Bengals vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The animosity of Bengals vs. Steelers has now shifted towards Bengals vs. Ravens, in a not so elegant fashion. This isn’t to say feelings towards Pittsburgh have softened; Baltimore is just taking the power shift in the division a little too personal. Just ask Bart Scott.

Truth be told, this matchup has usually been even, at least since the Bengals escaped the 90s. The team formerly known as the Browns lead the all-time series 27-25 even after getting swept by the 2021 Bengals. That’s a closer record than the Ravens-Steelers rivalry (31-24 in Pittsburgh’s favor), which is considered one of the NFL’s best. The 2010s saw a lot of close games when it was Andy Dalton duking it out with Joe Flacco. Things definitely shifted when Lamar Jackson entered the scene, and we covered that the last time these teams met on the gridiron.

Defending Jackson was not something Cincinnati had to worry about in their latest matchup. The former MVP was one of several starters that couldn’t suit up for Baltimore. You’d think not having the starting quarterback and his main backup would be a team’s biggest problem, but third-stringer Josh Johnson made the best of his situation. Most of the Ravens’ starting offense was out there to help him out, and they turned in a solid outing.

No, the majority of their issues existed on defense, and Joe Burrow made sure to exploit them all on Sunday.

When we look back on this year, the conversation of parity will be interesting. There hasn’t been a more tightly contested NFL season in quite some time. The middle class of the league has seemingly grown exponentially and has consumed truly terrible teams and truly dominant teams alike. Underdogs on paper are coming out as victors on the field. The playoff race changes by the minute every weekend. Any. Given. Sunday.

That’s been the case for 16 weeks, but no one really believed the Ravens had a chance when they came to Paul Brown Stadium. Their defense was beyond depleted in the backend and they were down two quarterbacks. But head coach Zac Taylor made sure to remind his players to not let that noise diminish what they accomplished Sunday.

“Don’t let anyone try to minimize that win,” Taylor told his team postgame. “Winning in this league is hard. Winning in this division is hard. Winning in December is hard. You guys went out there and kicked some ass today, that was awesome.”

Taylor and his coaching staff surely recognized where they had the advantage in this game. In that same vein, they knew where the things were more evenly matched. One of those places was on the left edge of the Bengals’ offensive line.

We haven’t talked much about Jonah Williams this year. With so many developments happening on the other side of the line, he’s been a boring player in the best kind of way. The tape hasn’t changed with him this entire year. The wins are boring, the losses are far and few between and when they occur, it’s usually from freak edge rushers.

Odafe Oweh is on his way to being in that class.

The Ravens took a first-round chance on Oweh, who, despite his athletic prowess, didn’t record a single sack in his last year of college. Not only does he have five already in his professional career, he’s second among qualifying rookie edge rushers in Pro Football Focus’ pass-rushing grade and pass rush win rate.

Baltimore may’ve changed in some ways, but they’ve always been able to fast-track their pass rushers to success. Oweh seems no different, and he’s packed full of explosion and fluidity.

So yes, the Ravens were definitely undermanned in the secondary, but unless Williams and the offensive line could stop Oweh and Co. from getting to Burrow, 41 points would not have been dropped on Wink Martindale’s head.

Williams and Oweh went back and forth for all four quarters in 41 total snaps. Here are seven that stood out to me:

That didn’t look like a practice squad or JV player to me.

Outdated tropes and manipulated storylines will always define rivalries in this sport, but the meaning of the word rival doesn’t involve hatred or bad blood. A rival is an entity that’s simply a competitor, and usually one that’s an equal to you.

Underneath all the headlines and Twitter arguments questioning the validity of the Bengals’ win, there was a true rivalry developing before our very eyes. Personally, I can’t wait to watch Williams and Oweh battle for years to come.