This AFC North showdown will be one of the highlights of Week 3’s slate of games, as the surging Cincinnati Bengals, 2-0 on the season, attempt to cement their place atop their division.
Meanwhile, if the Baltimore Ravens, a preseason Super-Bowl favorite, can’t mount a win against their division rival, they’ll find themselves stuck at the bottom of the AFC North.
The sample size of games already played is small, so it’s too early to declare that this is the year the Bengals have gotten everything together, and similarly, that the Ravens are falling apart.
But Cincinnati is definitely clicking. Its 24-19 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday was convincing, as Andy Dalton led a dangerous Bengals offense. He connected with three different pass-catchers for three touchdowns: tight end Tyler Eifert and receivers Marvin Jones and A.J. Green.
Dalton, who has five touchdowns on the season, has yet to throw an interception or take a sack. He’s completing 68.3 percent of his passes through two games.
The Bengals offense was able to reach 389 yards of total offense even without Jeremy Hill. Hill, who was projected to be not only the team’s starting rusher but one of the best backs in the league in 2015, was benched after fumbling twice.
No worries; Giovani Bernard carried the ball 20 times for 123 yards.
But it wasn’t just Cincinnati’s offense that deserves credit for the win. Hill’s two fumbles could have led directly to points for San Diego, but the Bengals defense made sure that didn’t happen, as Coley Harvey pointed out.
The Ravens were stunned by a 37-33 loss in the last seconds to the Oakland Raiders thanks to Oakland quarterback Derek Carr’s late heroics. Baltimore’s defense, clearly reeling from the loss of star defender Terrell Suggs, showed some major fissures. It allowed Oakland 448 yards of total offense, including 351 passing yards and three touchdowns to Carr.
On offense, Baltimore saw some big performances from wideout Steve Smith Sr., who had 150 receiving yards, and Crockett Gilmore, who had two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to boost them past the Raiders.
If this Ravens defense, thought to be one of the league’s best prior to the season, couldn’t slow Oakland’s offensive attack, how will it fare against the Bengals, hungry for their third consecutive win?