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Keys to the Game: Week 1 – Bengals vs. Ravens

Monday Night, Charm City, Divisional Game. It all adds up to an exciting opener.

Week 1: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday September 10, 2012 7:00 PM

Line: Ravens -7 O/U 41.5

Well Constant Reader, we have turned another calendar year. Exciting, isn’t it? As summer wanes to fall a young man’s fancy turns to football and our beloved Ravens are back in action under the bright lights of Prime-time. A fitting way to kick off what promises to be a spectacular 2012 campaign. Will they sink the Bengals to set the tone early? Or will the number of injuries and Departures be too much for the Ravens to overcome? With that in mind, let’s take a look at this week’s keys to the game.

BGR’s Keys to the Game

 Set the Tempo

Let’s begin with the obvious shall we? With the loss of stalwart starters such as Jarret Johnson and Ben Grubbs to free agency, and T.Sizzle to injury, there are more questions than answers surrounding the Ravens right now. Questions lead to lack of confidence and lack of confidence leads to defeat. The Ravens must come out of the gate smoking hot and set the tempo for how this game is going to be played. If Cincy is allowed to come out and dictate the pace, the Ravens will be playing catch up all night long.

Stretch the Field

The Bengals have one of the premier defenses in the league. Although often overlooked and never heralded, Cincinnati plays with a mean, aggressive, in your face style. Basically exactly what you’d expect from Marvin Lewis. They will make rushing the quarterback their primary focus throughout the game. If they can consistently collapse the still fluid offensive line of Baltimore, this game will be over before it begins. The Ravens have to keep the pressure off by stretching the field and forcing the Bengals to cover instead of rush.

Force Turnovers

Andy Dalton received a lot of credit last season (and rightly so) for being a pro ready quarterback from moment one. He’s smart with the ball, moves it well, and doesn’t turn it over. That said, against superior talent he struggles. His numbers drop and he looks like a middle of the pack QB. The Bengals’ most glaring weakness this season is the lack of weapons down field. Yes they have Jermaine Gresham and yes they have A.J. Green, but after that there’s no one of any note.  The Ravens must exploit this by attacking the weaker receivers and force them to make mistakes. If they do and can win the turn over battle this should be a cakewalk.

Kruger’s Nightmare Potential

This is the moment for Paul Kruger. Little kids dream about it, former players reminisce about it, has beens and wanna bes lament about it.  The one shining moment when the whole world looks to you and says “this is your time, show us what you can do.” Asking someone to fill the shoes of the defensive player of the year is no small order. It’s like asking Curtis Painter to fill in for Peyton Manning last season. But if Paul Kruger can show that he has what it takes to shore up the front seven, he can be a hero and save this Ravens defense. Either that or he’s going to fall by the way side and be an after thought. Make no mistake though, he will be integral to the Ravens success this weekend. Last year the Ravens struggled to get to Dalton and he made the secondary pay big time. Monday night will be no different.

BGR Staff Predictions

Jonathon Scruggs (0-0)

The Ravens are stalwart defenders of their home nest. Even though there are massive number of issues plaguing the team right now, I still feel like they pull out a close victory over the Bengals right along the lines of the spread.

Ravens 30 — Bengals 26

Matt Jergensen (0-0)

Finally, the Ravens get a home Monday Night game on the schedule and I expect them to take advantage of it. The crowd should be able to give the emotional lift needed to handle a young and talented Bengals team. While I see the Bengals as a dangerous divisional foe they still have something to prove. Last season they had difficulty getting past any team with a winning record. I see Flacco putting up strong numbers and Ray Rice doing his usual against the Stripes.

Ravens 31 – Bengals 24

Gene Winner (0-0)

Ravens home, prime time, Monday night football…the fans and team will be pumped! I like Ravens in this match-up, they have added more weapons on offense and defensively they want to prove that in Baltimore defense is still ‘king.’

Ravens 27 – Bengals 20

Ben Zinman

Ravens are home for the season opener on MNF.  Expect no surprises here. Joe plays well. Dalton continues to impress but is still making too many mistakes.

Ravens 27 – Bengals 21


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