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AFC North Play Gives Ravens Big Opportunity


As disappointed as the Ravens are with the results from the first two weeks of the season, they know they have a golden opportunity sitting in front of them.

Baltimore opens its division schedule at home Sunday against the first-place Bengals, and follows that up with matchups against the Steelers and Browns. It's a tough stretch, but the three straight division games give Baltimore a chance to put itself right back into the thick of the race.

"You can easily dig yourself out or dig yourself deeper," tight end Crockett Gillmore said.

The Ravens are currently staring up at the rest of the AFC North. The Bengals (2-0) are the division's only undefeated team, and the Steelers (1-1) and Browns (1-1) both have a one-game advantage over Baltimore.

Those division standings could look much different a month from now if the Ravens turn around their season in a hurry.  

"We can't afford to panic," defensive end Chris Canty said. "It's just guys embracing the challenge, being able to deal with the adversity that you're faced with and being able to focus amidst all the challenges that you're faced with, and be energized by those challenges."

The Bengals are also well aware of where they sit in the standings.

The AFC North has come down to the season's final weeks in recent years – the Ravens have consistently been in that mix under Head Coach John Harbaugh – but the Bengals have a rare chance to deliver a serious blow to Baltimore's division hopes so early in the year.

"It's not often there is an opportunity to go up – after three games – to be up by three games on a team in your division," Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert said. "We've definitely noticed that, and we want to go in there and play well and get a win."

Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis acknowledged "we're fortunate to be where we are," but hesitated to speculate on what a win would mean in the overall division race.

"This is a big football game ahead of us, and it is only two football games," Lewis said. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us."

The Ravens also have a heavy workload ahead of them. They have thee tough games in the span of 14 days, and their season could very well hinge on the ability to get themselves back on track against their division rivals.

"You just have to keep going," wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. said. "You have to get on the winning track. If you stay on the winning track, it doesn't matter."

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