Majority of Pundits Pick Bengals to Beat Ravens
The Ravens have lost three consecutive games at Cincinnati's Paycor Stadium, including a gut-wrenching defeat in the playoffs last January and a blowout in 2021.
A majority of the pundits we looked at (40 of 56) expect the trend to continue on Sunday even though the Ravens have Lamar Jackson back (he missed all three of those games).
The consensus is that it'll be a close game. Of the 33 pundits who predicted the score, 31 have it being decided by one score, including 20 who have the margin of victory as three points or less.
The Bengals (0-1) and Ravens (1-0) are widely regarded as the top two teams in the AFC North, although both offenses underperformed in Week 1.
The new-look Ravens offense had an uneven performance in a 25-9 win over the Houston Texans, while the Bengals were shockingly limited to 142 yards and six first downs in a 24-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Here's what the pundits are saying about Sunday's game:
The Bengals will bounce back against the banged-up Ravens.
Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski: "Three factors came into play when leaning toward the Bengals. First, Joe Burrow and Co. will not play as poorly in Week 2 as they did last week against the Browns. Second, early weather projections don't expect a downpour like the Bengals endured in Cleveland. Finally, the Ravens are reeling to a degree after losing starting running back J.K. Dobbins (torn Achilles) to a season-ending injury. Safety Marcus Williams is out for an extended period of time with a pectoral injury. Meanwhile, center Tyler Linderbaum and left tackle Ronnie Stanley are currently dinged. The Bengals should be able to take advantage of these newfound shortcomings."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "The Bengals are at home, coming off a terrible season-opening loss, have an angry Burrow and are facing a team that will be without a handful of its top players. Cincinnati should win this game, and I'm not sure there will be much nail-biting required."
The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia: "I hate going against the Ravens in spots like this because we know they're going to have a special teams edge. But the Bengals are healthier, and I don't think last week's loss reflects who they're going to be this season."
USA Today’s Lorenzo Reyes: "Cincinnati saw the worst game of Joe Burrow's career in pouring rain. He will be better and Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins will bounce back. The Ravens, unfortunately, already suffered some significant injuries and the most concerning are along the offensive line. I think this is a tremendous spot for Cincy at home."
The Ravens will win thanks to a better performance by the offense.
The Athletic's Vic Tafur: "In their first game with new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, the Ravens were flagged for six penalties in Week 1, tied with the Panthers for the most. They will be cleaner this week, and the explosive plays that we were all looking forward to will be enough to beat the Bengals no matter how Burrow plays."
The Ravens will again prove their resilience and win the game.
The Baltimore Sun’s Tim Schwartz: "We've seen this from the Ravens before. Someone (not named Lamar Jackson) goes down, and they rally behind the next man up and win a game nobody expects them to. And don't think Baltimore doesn't remember its last trip to Cincinnati. All that will be fuel for the Ravens, who are facing a Bengals team that looked downright bad in Week 1. Both offenses will improve Sunday, but the return of tight end Mark Andrews will be what the Ravens need to pull off an upset."
Running the ball is the key to a Ravens' victory.
NBC Sports' Chris Simms: "If they just run the ball, they'll be fine. Don't get obsessed with … 'Oh we have to justify Lamar's passing game.' Run the ball, run the ball with Lamar. The passing game will open up and you'll have your chances there."
|ESPN||9 of 10 panelists pick Bengals|
|Baltimore Sun||2 of 4 panelists pick Ravens||“Joe Burrow and the Bengals will be motivated not to start 0-2 in the AFC North. The Ravens are already in triage mode as they try to work around a series of injuries to key starters. That’s a daunting setup for a road trip that would not have been easy for the Ravens under the best circumstances.”— Childs Walker|
|USA Today||5 of 8 panelists pick Bengals|
|NFL.com||3 of 5 panelists pick Bengals||“How the Ravens' backup RBs perform in place of J.K. Dobbins on Sunday could determine whether John Harbaugh continues to look in-house for support or seeks help elsewhere. The bigger story here, though, is the expected return of Pro Bowl TE Mark Andrews, who, along with rookie standout Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman, comprise a pass-catching unit capable of mitigating any trouble the Ravens have on the ground. Joe Burrow's Bengals are way too good to lay another dud, especially at home, but I think their slow start extends into Week 2 before they truly kick things into gear. Sound familiar?” — Ali Bhanpuri|
|NFL Network||8 of 10 panelists pick Bengals|
|Sporting News||Bengals 31, Ravens 24||“While Joe Burrow has struggled mightily in his matchup against the Browns, he's thrived against the Ravens when they have had tough defenses. Now Baltimore has a weak exploitable secondary and their running game still has some questions now minus JK Dobbins and not letting Lamar Jackson rumble as much. The Ravens have some exciting young receivers, but the Bengals are underrated with their pass rush and coverage.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||8 of 8 panelists pick Bengals||“The Bengals are coming off a horrible showing in their opener, one in which Joe Burrow looked bad. That will change here. The Bengals will get the offense going here. The Ravens have some injury issues on the offensive line, which could be a problem. The division games are always tough, but I don't see Cincinnati going 0-2 to start this season like it did in 2022.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||1 of 2 panelists pick Ravens||“I don’t trust the Bengals offense quite yet, and I‘ve seen them start slow three years in a row. And I think Baltimore will be highly motivated by that playoff loss and go on the road and pull this one off.” — Chris Simms|
|Sports Illustrated||4 of 7 panelists pick Ravens|
|Fansided||Ravens 21, Bengals 20||“Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense weren't exactly lighting the world on fire in Week 1, even if the end result was still a 16-point win over the lowly Texans. At the same time, though, the rust for Joe Burrow was more than evident with perhaps the worst game of the Bengals quarterback's career. My expectation, especially with the divisional familiarity at play, is that Baltimore continues to make Burrow uncomfortable and we see another bad-to-middling game from the QB while the Ravens take a step forward in the second game under new OC Todd Monken.” — Cody Williams|
Has Ravens-Bengals Unseated Ravens-Steelers As AFC North's Best Rivalry?
The Ravens-Steelers rivalry is regarded as one of the best in the NFL, but is it no longer even the best rivalry in the AFC North?
The Athletic's AFC North beat writers debated the topic, and three of the four said Ravens-Bengals is currently the top rivalry in the division.
Zrebiec: "Maybe it's just because I'm closer to this one, but to me, it's Ravens-Bengals. Ravens-Steelers will always have a special place among the NFL's top rivalries, but it has lost some luster in recent years. This isn't a bad thing, mind you, but the Ravens and Steelers seem to have a grudging respect for one another — and that includes the two head coaches — where there's not a lot of talk, extracurriculars or nonsense. It's just a competitive, hard-fought football game. But it doesn't seem like John Harbaugh and Zac Taylor, regardless of what they say, like each other very much. The teams have been verbally sparring for a couple of years, with accusations from both sides. It's gotten a bit nasty. With Burrow and Lamar Jackson starting long-term deals and both organizations known for drafting well, it feels like they will perennially be in the hunt and in each other's way."
Zac Jackson: "It's probably Bengals-Ravens given last season's playoff game and that Cincinnati has played in two straight AFC Championships."
Paul Dehner: "For now, I'd give a nod to Bengals-Ravens. They've played the most high-profile games, exchanging more than a fair share of trash talk in the process last season. They have the division's two most high-profile quarterbacks, and the results have been relatively even. It wasn't long ago Burrow and Taylor happily ran up 525 passing yards on a depleted Baltimore secondary with a nod to former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale in the postgame. Until Pittsburgh and Cleveland re-enter the postseason equation, this will hold the title."
Mark Kaboly: "For the most part, it is a fluid situation depending on which teams are good. To me, it does feel like everybody hates everybody equally in this division as of late, which is a good thing. If I am going to pare it down, even though the Bengals have ruled the division over the past few years, nothing will be better than the Steelers and Ravens. No matter which teams are good, it's always a battle that is usually determined by less than a touchdown. It's not by happenstance that the Steelers and Ravens have enjoyed the most success out of the four-team division since its inception and are the top rivals not only in the AFC North, but in the NFL."
Ravens' Issues on Offense "Easily Solvable*"*
Part of the reason the Ravens offense did not get off to a rousing start was likely because the group did not get any preseason game action together.
ESPN's Damien Woody and Dan Orlovsky said it's just a matter of time before the offense is clicking.
"I think these things are easily solvable," Woody said on "Get Up.” "Essentially what we're talking about is timing between the drop of the quarterback as it relates to the receivers' routes."
Orlovsky said he believes Jackson and his receivers will ultimately get in sync.
"Trusting the timing of the pass game is really where this offense needs to take their next next big step," Orlovsky said.
Three Ravens Make Ultimate 53-Man Roster
Former agent Joel Corry of CBS Sports put together the ultimate 53-man roster, with a salary cap and draft restrictions considered. Three Ravens made the roster (2023 cap number in parentheses):
Starting ILB Roquan Smith ($9,003,835)
"Smith took his game to another level after being traded from the Bears to the Ravens last season," Corry wrote. "He was arguably the league's best off-ball linebacker while with Baltimore. The Ravens made Smith the NFL's first and only $20 million per year off-ball linebacker with a five-year, $100 million contract right before the playoffs started.
K Justin Tucker ($5,958,334)
"Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history hitting 364 of 402 field goal attempts for a 90.5% conversion rate (minimum of 100 made). He also holds the record for the longest field goal in NFL history at 66 yards."
Reserve WR Zay Flowers ($2,555,780)
"The Ravens are encouraged that Flowers, who was the second wide receiver taken in this year's Draft, can be a long-term number one receiving option for Lamar Jackson."
Zay Flowers Among Top Five 2023 Rookie Debuts
Next Gen Stats ranked the top 10 debuts of this year's rookies, and Flowers came in at No. 4 for his nine-catch, 78-yard performance last week.
Flowers had an overall grade of 79. It was noted that 54 of his receiving yards came after the catch. He also had two carries for nine yards.
"New Ravens Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken's plan for Flowers was clear: get the rookie playmaker the ball in space,"quote] [The Next Gen Stats Analytics Team wrote on NFL.com. "Across 25 routes, Flowers was targeted 10 times in Week 1, the second-most targets among rookies and seven more targets than the next-closest Ravens pass catcher.
"By design, Flowers was targeted five times on wide receiver screens, gaining 26 yards after the catch across those five receptions. Flowers also showed the ability to work as a vertical threat, with a 21-yard go route in the first quarter and a 20-yard catch on an out route in the third quarter."