Looking like the best team in the NFL after their pasting of Buffalo in the opener, the Baltimore Ravens have a much tougher opponent when they meet the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It’s a battle for first place in the AFC North that doesn’t include the favorite Pittsburgh, but you can expect the Steelers to be right in the thick of the race as the season progresses. I know, it’s only one game, but the Ravens and Bengals have to be excited about getting off to a good start after both missed the playoffs the last two seasons.
This contest in Week 2 of the regular season will go down Thursday, September 13, 2018, at 8:20 p.m. ET at Paul Brown Stadium.
NFL Opening Odds at BookMaker.eu
Baltimore Ravens -1.5
Cincinnati Bengals +1.5
The Ravens had the best showing during the first week, easily dispatching Buffalo as a 7.5-point favorite. That was enough for oddsmakers to open them as a 1.5-point favorite for Thursday night’s matchup. Baltimore is getting nearly 80 percent of the early action so don’t be surprised to see this line spike. The total hit the board at 44 with the money divided evenly between the over and under.
Preston Brown – Locking up the free agent in the offseason was a priority for the Bengals to improve their depth at linebacker. His presence is more valuable now that Vontaze Burfict is out serving a suspension. But Brown limped off the field Sunday with an apparent ankle injury and his status for Thursday is questionable. His absence would open the middle of the field for the Ravens mid-range passing game.
Players to Watch
The Ravens had to improve a passing game that ranked 29th in the league last year with just 189.4 yards per game. And it was imperative they get some downfield threats after averaging a league-low 5.1 yards per pass attempt. A new stable of receivers that included John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead was acquired during the offseason and the trio paid dividends in their first game.
Joe Flacco looked poised in the pocket and confident with his new pass-catchers. He threw for 236 yards and three scores, with one going to each of his new teammates. Snead had a game-high four catches for 49 yards with a 13-yard score. Brown hauled in three passes for 44 yards with a 7-yard touchdown and Crabtree had a 12-yard scoring catch among his three receptions. The Ravens averaged 6.6 yards per pass attempt against the Bills.
Six was a good number for the Ravens on opening day. On offense they scored six touchdowns with three coming on the ground and three by Flacco through the air. They were also a perfect 6 of 6 in red zone touchdown efficiency.
Defensively they hounded Buffalo quarterbacks Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen, collecting six sacks with Tavon Young leading the way with a pair. Za’Darius Smith, Kenny Young, Terrell Suggs and Tim Williams each had one. We expected the Ravens to be strong on defense and the Bills felt the wrath. Baltimore held them to just 153 total yards and 10 first downs while limiting the Bills to 2 of 15 on third-down chances. The Bills were responsible for a lot of the damage inflicted on them with poor play all the way around, but credit the Ravens for a complete effort.
Free ATS Pick
The Ravens looked really good in their opener, but I’m not sure how much of that can be attributed to the ineptness of the Bills. Still, a 47-3 beatdown in the NFL is impressive. It’s not going to be that easy all season and Baltimore will find that out on Thursday. But this is a team with a different outlook on offense, and coupled with their stingy defense, they should contend for a playoff spot.
Give props to the Bengals too for scoring the final 24 points in their win over the Colts. And we’ve seen Cincy have success against the Ravens over the years, winning seven of the last nine meetings. It’s going to be a different story for Baltimore facing Andy Dalton and the pass rush of Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins will disrupt Flacco into a few mistakes. I like the Bengals and the points in this one with the over likely.
NFL Betting Odds: Bengals 26, Ravens 23
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