The last time the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals shared the same field, Bengal's quarterback Andy Dalton became a popular hero … in Buffalo. Dalton's game-changing 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd shattered the Ravens playoff dreams and threw the bills into the postseason for the first time in 17 years,

It's hard to imagine the Ravens coming back from the game with a better performance than the ones they put together last week against … the Bills. Baltimore stomped Buffalo 47-3 in a game that was still not quite as close as it sounded. The Ravens made the bills look like they were not on a professional football field. Baltimore won the bills by 216 yards, scored more than twice as many first downs on the ground, through the air and in total, and scored points in the red zone six times, while the Bills scored the 20 on their only journey in goal ,

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Meanwhile, the Bengals played a strong game against the Colts stormed back with a 17-point fourth quarter to come up with a double-digit profit. Andy Dalton spread the ball around. Joe Mixon had the best game of his career. The defense kept Andrew Luck at only 6.0 yards per attempt and also came with two turnovers and a touchdown. The victory was not quite as dominant as the Ravens, but it was a good, solid way to start the 2018 campaign.

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One of these two teams will switch to 2-0 this week while the other team will catch up. How will the "Thursday Night Football" (20:20, NFL Network) go out and what should the conscientious observer watch out for? Read on to find out.

When the ravens have the ball

Joe Flacco is back! The Ravens starter has been coming out of his best regular season game since 2014. Flacco completed 25 of 34 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns and was not intercepted. His 121.7 pass rating was the best mark he has achieved since October 2014 during a regular season game. It was the first time he threw three touchdown passes without being picked up since this game – and that's something he has done just eight times. Among the 74 players in NFL history with at least eight such games, Flacco is one of 24 players whose team has won every time he does the trick. (The Patriots are 53-2 if Tom Brady throws at least three touchdowns without being hit, which seems far more impressive than the Ravens who go 8-0 if Flacco does that.)

I'm not sure what conclusions we can or should draw from a game that the Ravens played against a team that hardly seems to be an NFL unit. It's also important to note that Flacco Buffalo's cornerback tandem did not really challenge. More than half of Flacco's throws in Week 1 went to his tight ends or running backs.

As such, he did not push the ball into the downfield very often. The average depth of his throws was just 7.1 yards, according to Pro Football Focus, the 25th of the 35 quarterbacks who played at least a quarter of their team's hits in the first week.

The Bengals probably have an even stronger group of cornerbacks than the Bills. William Jackson III comes from a spectacular rookie season in which he allowed a Pro Football Focus rate of 34.9 percent and a Passer rating of only 36.1 percent. Both of these numbers are among the best in the NFL. Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard did not fare as well as Jackson last season, but both admitted to below-average Passer odds for opponents when they were in coverage, even though they were targeted much more often than Jackson.

It's hard to know which corner will suit which Ravens receiver, since Baltimore has moved it quite often in Week 1, but we know that the receiver on the right side of the field will see Jackson, the receiver on the Kirkpatrick will see the left side and the slitman will see Dennard.

receiver Left Law slot
Michael Crabtree 43% 37% 20%
John Brown 22% 34% 45%
Willie Snead 16% 19% 63%

It's possible that Flacco might be aiming his tight ends and backs hard again, but Cincinnati's defense probably will not make as much run after catch as Buffalo did last week.

Of course, Baltimore would probably prefer his attack based on his attack. Alex Collins has had 15 or more transfers in nine of the last 11 games of the last season, including the final against the Bengals, where he wore the skirt 20 times for 78 yards. Collins did not touch the ball that much last week, but it was a strange game in which Baltimore had something in his hand early on and moved away from his usual rotation. The Ravens will likely try to train him early and often to control the line of attack against a strong defensive front, and to bring Flacco into more advantageous situations from the third row still allows them to begin a conversion.

If the Bengals have the ball

The most notable thing about Week 1 of Bengals was how their backfield work was split up. For years, the Bengals have used a backfield committee. Look at the breakdown of games in recent seasons.

2017 14.9 9.3
2016 16.2 13.0
2015 14.9 12.8
2014 16.2 15.6
2013 14.1 14.0

In the first week, the Bengals acted for the first time since the 2012 season with a real lead, as BenJarvis Green-Ellis scored an average of 18.8 goals per game and the closest return match in the team (Cedric Peerman) was only 3.4 points per game , Joe Mixon received 17 jerseys in week 1 compared to just one for Giovani Bernard. Mixon was also directed to Bernards seven times in the passing game. Overall, Mixon had 22 touches for 149 yards and one result while Bernard touched the ball twice and scored nine yards. Mixon also drove Bernard 44 to 12 and gave him an 80-20 split of the snap-load.

Bernard has been more of a "second half of a timeshare type" throughout his career, a role that fits him in the face of his slightly stunted stature and strength; but Mixon brings the power abilities of a Green-Ellis or Jeremy Hill, while also having the ability to act as a pass-blocker or receiver from the backfield. It is possible that they want to facilitate their work during the season, but he seems to have the skills to do the job alone. This is worth considering as part of this matchup. Baltimore used to give run / pass clues when faced with the Bengals based on who was behind or alongside quarterback Andy Dalton, but that's no longer the case with Mixon.

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Dalton would benefit from a little more unpredictability. He is 7-6 in 13 career-regular season games against the Ravens, but his pass rate against them was below average. Dalton has made at least three regular season starts against 12 different opponents. His 57.0 completion percentage against the Ravens ranked seventh in this group, as did his 694 yards per attempt. His touchdown rate of 3.14 percent, however, ranks in tenth place, as does his 3.56 percent interception rate. And his 74.1 passer rating is ranked 11th. The Ravens are also one of only two of these 12 teams Dalton has a negative touchdown to interception ratio for.

It is quite likely that Dalton will also benefit from the presence of one of his best weapons, which is rarely on the field. Tight End Tyler Eifert is finally back to health and there was a significant uptrend in some areas of Dalton's performance when Eifert was on the field.

games 39 39
Comp 836 773
Att 1326 1214
% Comp. 63.1% 63.7%
courts 9928 8782
YPA 7:49 7.23
YPC 11.87 11:37
TD 67 55
INT 33 32
QB Rtg 92.3 89.4

In particular, Eifert's presence has helped Dalton push the ball down a little further. That's no surprise. Eifert is a tall (6-6, 255 pound) threat across the middle of the field, and he outperforms linebacker with his athleticism and beats them to catch. Interestingly, this specific trait is one with which the Ravens had some problems with the last season.

According to Football Outsiders, Baltimore's second-rate pass defense (by DVOA) was below average for just three things: covering the tight ends (29 '), covering the passes over the middle of the field (16') and covering the low passes (24 '). If Eifert can play more than 40 percent of the snapshots this week, he might do some damage there.

Of course, Dalton is not the only Bengal who has benefited from Eifert's presence in the field. It is questionable that Eifert for the production of Star Wideout A.J. Green.

Rec 215 185
tgt 355 323
Catch% 60.5% 57.3%
courts 3159 2739
YPC 14.70 14.79
TD 22 18
TD / TGT 6.2% 5.5%

Green probably sees a shadow report by Ravens Corner Brandon Carr, who is taller and longer than Marlon Humphrey. When the Ravens shadowed larger receivers last year, it was often Carr who traveled with these players. Carr is still not The He's very good at news coverage but has become much more of a playmaker in Baltimore than in his four years with the Dallas Cowboys. He had defended four interceptions and 12 passes in the last season, and already had a selection and three rashes last week. Green is obviously another animal to deal with, such as Kelvin Benjamin, so Carr will do his job for him this week.

But Carr's uptrend in sales is also a symbol of what Ravens defense was all about last season. Baltimore forced sales of 17.4 percent of its opponents in 2017 – the highest in the league. The ability to force sales on such a large number of possessions, however, has not proven to be very consistent from year to year. Therefore, I warn against expecting ravens to come first again just because they did it last year.

What we should expect is that they put pressure on Dalton with their defensive, because they have the players to do so. And if they're able to create that pressure, the Dalton might make the kind of mistakes we've gotten used to.

Selection: Ravens 20, Bengals 16


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