Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens 9/7/14 NFL Pick, Odds, Prediction
Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
NFL Football: Sunday, September 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm (M&T Bank Stadium)
The Line: Baltimore Ravens -1.5 -- Over/Under: 44 See the Latest Odds
The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals face off in an AFC North rivalry game to start the season.
The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off an 11-5 campaign in 2013 but once again they lost in the opening round of the playoffs as QB Andy Dalton has yet to win a playoff game despite making the postseason in each of the past three seasons. Head coach Marvin Lewis took the preseason seriously with a 2-2 record and no blowout losses.
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The Bengals offense is more focused on the pass as quarterback Andy Dalton has one of the best receivers in the game as his primary target in A.J. Green, who has averaged 98 catches for 1,388 yards and 11 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Behind Green at receiver are Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, with Jermaine Gresham as a solid option at tight end and backup tight end Tyler Eifert looking to build on his potential. The backfield features second year back Giovani Bernard with rookie Jeremy Hill out of LSU playing complementary duty as the more bruising back in between the tackles.
On defense, the Bengals were a stout unit in 2013 ranking in the top five in points allowed and passing and rushing yards allowed per game. Stud defensive tackle Geno Atkins missed the end of last season after suffering a torn ACL and will look to stay healthy in 2014. Vontaze Burfict is the key to the linebacker position after leading the team in tackles by a wide margin with 171 combined in 2013. The secondary is mostly a veteran unit with corners Leon Hall and Terrence Newman and free safety Reggie Nelson, but George Iloka is playing just his third NFL season at the strong safety position.
The Baltimore Ravens plodded through the 2013 season with an 8-8 record in typical Super Bowl hangover fashion after winning it all in 2012. The Ravens took the preseason seriously this year with a 4-0 record under John Harbaugh against quality opponents.
The Ravens offense picked up a new weapon for quarterback Joe Flacco as veteran Steve Smith joined the team from Carolina. Torrey Smith will still be the featured target for the deep ball after catching 65 balls for 1,128 yards in 2013. The Ravens added Owen Daniels at TE to complement Dennis Pitta as well. In the backfield Ray Rice will be suspended to start the year opening the door for Bernard Pierce to see increased work with rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro trying to make a name for himself behind Pierce.
On defense, the Ravens were in the top half of the league in 2013 but not dominant in any regard. Haloti Ngata is one of the best nose tackles in the league up front and Terrell Suggs is vicious from the outside linebacker position. Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb are one of the best cornerback tandems in the league, but they’ve combined to miss 19 games over the past three seasons which could be an issue with a lack of depth at the position.
The Ravens are a strong home but I think the Bengals are better on both sides of the ball and are familiar enough with the Ravens to pick up a road win to start the year.