Tale Of The Tape: Cincinnati Bengals At Baltimore Ravens
- QuarterbackThe AFC North title may very well come down to these two teams, so this opening game should be among the hardest hitting and most entertaining on the schedule. While Andy Dalton has had a slew of problems competing in postseason games, he is adequate in the regular season. He threw 33 TD passes last season and he has an excellent rapport with wide receiver A.J. Green.The Ravens would like to bounce back from a disappointing season and challenge New England and Denver in the AFC. Joe Flacco is a strong-armed quarterback who has proven himself in the postseason, but he is coming off a below-average season in which he had a 19-22 TD-interception ratio. While those numbers were disappointing, Flacco remains a confident signal caller.
- OffenseThe Bengals have the talent on the offensive side to light up the scoreboard. Green is one of the most dangerous receivers in the game, and he is especially dangerous when it comes to stretching the field and catching the deep ball. Running back Gio Bernard has excellent change of direction and can take the heat off of Dalton with his running ability.Bernard Pierce gets an opportunity at the running back position because Ray Rice has been suspended for the first two games. Look for a monster effort from Pierce, who wants to show head coach John Harbaugh that he is the best running back on the team. Look for veteran wide receiver Steve Smith to show that he is still dangerous. Torrey Smith is a gamebreaker at the other WR spot.
- DefenseThe Bengals have built a talented and physical defense, but charismatic defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer left to become head coach of the Vikings and that could hurt them. However, defensive tackle Geno Atkins is one of the best run stuffers in the league and fellow DT Domata Peko is also solid. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is a star who had 171 tackles and 3.0 sacks last season.The Ravens played surprisingly well on defense last year and they could be even better this year. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata anchors the defensive line, while aggressive Terrell Suggs had 10.0 sacks last year and is usually at his best when the game is on the line. Rookie C.J. Mosley has size, strength and speed, and he should be an impact player.
- Special TeamsThe Bengals are average on special teams as placekicker Mike Nugent made 18-of-22 FG attempts last year and punter Kevin Huber had a 45.2-yard gross average. Brandon Tate is a fairly good return man who has averaged 24.8 yards per kickoff return.The Ravens should continue to have stellar special teams play again this season. Justin Tucker is one of the best placekickers in the league, and he is coming off a year in which he made 38-of-41 field goals, including a long of 61. Jacoby Jones is one of the most dangerous return men in the league.
This should be one of the best games of the opening weekend of the season, but the Ravens may have the edge because they are playing at home and Flacco is motivated to rebound from a subpar season. Look for Smith to have a huge game in his first regular-season appearance with the Ravens. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports