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Everything You Need to Know: Ravens at Bengals

091318_GamePreview

Basics

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Paul Brown Stadium
TV: NFL Network (FOX crew: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews, Kristina Pink); Channel 11, WBAL (Baltimore)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM) & 98Rock (97.9 FM)
Online: Yahoo! Sports

Stakes

The winner will start 2-0 and take sole possession of first place in the AFC North. The Ravens haven’t won the division since 2012 and have missed the playoffs the past three years. Getting off to a fast start is a high priority. The Bengals feel the same way coming off a disappointing 7-9 season.

History

The Ravens want to forget recent history between these two teams. In their last meeting, the Bengals ruined the Ravens’ 2017 season, as Cincinnati’s come-from-behind 31-27 victory in Week 17 cost the Ravens a playoff berth. On fourth-and-12, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw a 49-yard pass to Tyler Boyd with 44 seconds to play for the game-winning score. The Ravens and Bengals are tied, 22-22, in the all-time series. The Ravens are 8-14 all-time in Cincinnati, but they shutout the Bengals, 20-0, in last year’s season-opener at Paul Brown Stadium.

Key Storylines

Revenge Game for the Ravens

Do the Ravens remember how last year ended against the Bengals? They couldn’t forget if they tried. Almost every Ravens defensive starter Thursday night was on the field last year when Dalton hit Boyd. The Ravens’ defense was dominant in Week 1, but quickly turned its attention to this game. Beating the Bengals won’t erase the sting of last year, but it would sure feel good.

Ravens Have Ruled Thursday Night Football

Head Coach John Harbaugh has a 7-2 record on Thursday night, including a five-game winning streak. Only the Seattle Seahawks have a longer current winning streak (six games) on Thursday Night Football. Whatever the keys are to playing well after a short week, the Ravens seem to have them down pat.

Can the Ravens Contain Joe Mixon?

Mixon is one of the NFL’s best backs. He rushed for 96 yards against the Ravens last year in Week 17, and he had 95 yards rushing and 54 yards receiving Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts. The Bengals are tough to beat when Mixon is effective, because it complements Dalton throwing to favorite targets like wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert. Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy was stuffed by the Ravens defense (seven carries, 22 yards) in Week 1. They hope to give Mixon the same treatment.

Players to Watch

QB Joe Flacco

The Bengals have given Flacco as much trouble as any opponent. In eight of his last 10 games vs. Cincinnati, Flacco’s QB rating has been 71.0 or less. However, Flacco was brilliant in Week 1 against Buffalo with three touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 121.7. Flacco has looked good since Day 1 of training camp, but how Flacco performed Sunday will be a tough act to follow.

RB Alex Collins

His longest run in Week 1 was nullified by a penalty, he lost a fumble, and he was limited to 13 yards on seven carries. The Ravens need Collins to get rolling in this game.

ILB C. J. Mosley

He has lofty goals this season, including leading the NFL in tackles, being a first-team All Pro, and winning Super Bowl MVP. This is a spotlight game in front of a national TV audience, a moment for star players to shine. Not only would a huge game from Mosley grab attention, it would enhance the Ravens’ chances to win.

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