The Cincinnati Bengals are a hot, young team.
They're coming off a 2011 playoff berth. They have second-year standouts Andy Dalton and A.J. Green at quarterback and wide receiver, respectively. They again have a defense studded with talented first-round picks.
But are the Bengals prepared to upend the AFC North hierarchy?
One thing the Bengals didn't accomplish last season was beating a team with a winning record, including division* *rivals Baltimore or Pittsburgh.
Head Coach Marvin Lewis and Green answered Baltimore reporters' questions about that and a variety of other subjects.
Here are the highlights:
Head Coach Marvin Lewis
On what is in store for an encore after last season:"I think what we would want to have in store for an encore is an opportunity to get back and win the division, earn ourselves an opportunity to be in the playoffs at the end, and go forward and eventually end up in New Orleans and become world champions."
On how much he uses what happened last year as a building block for this year: "I think what we've used [from] last year is that we weren't good enough. We tried to take steps this offseason to improve our football team to get better. We've added, I think it's 18 new players that weren't here last year, and hopefully, as we go through the season we'll feel like we've improved in the areas we felt like we needed to."
On how important it is to win on Monday after struggling against playoff teams last season:"Well, it's an important game. And Buffalo was undefeated, and we beat them, and they were the cat's meow. So, there [are] some teams… It is what it is. You have to win, you have to win against good teams, and until you do everybody can say and do what they want."
On how not having outside linebacker Terrell Suggs in the game changes their offensive planning: "Well, Terrell is an excellent football player, and he's a great pass rusher [and] he's a physical player in the run game. He makes the unscripted plays quite a bit. But, we have to attack their defense, and that's what the key is no matter who's in there. They are going to have other guys step up and be ready to play. That's what good teams do, and that's the way to go about it."
On what linebacker Vontaze Burfict adds to their roster and his impressions of him: "He's just done everything that you ask a linebacker to do. He's been a very good player on special teams. He's understood responsibilities. He's gotten his job done, and he's done a nice job on defense for us."
Wide Receiver A.J. Green
On the significance of beating Baltimore:"Oh man, it would be great. Last year we lost to Baltimore and the Steelers. If we want to get over that hump, we have to beat those two [teams] at least once."
On if the Bengals look at Baltimore as a team to beat: "Oh yeah, definitely. They are probably one of the best teams in our division. So, if we want to be one of the best, we have to beat the best."
On what the Bengals expect to do as an encore this year:"Just want try to make the playoffs again and make a run at this."
On Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb:"He is probably one of the best all-around guys, because he plays the nickel, he plays outside, he is a punt returner. He is probably one of the best all-around football players we have in the league. He's tough, so it's going to be a challenge for me going up against somebody of his caliber."
On his reaction to Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh saying he is one of the NFL's best receivers:"It's a good thing, but I just take it with a grain of salt. I've got a long way to go to be mentioned with some of the best, so I've just got to keep working."