Week 2 of the NFL season gets started with an AFC North rivalry game as the Cincinnati Bengals host the Baltimore Ravens. Game time is set for 8:20 EST on Thursday, September 13, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Fans can watch the game on the NFL Network.
This game opened as a PK, although early betting has turned the Ravens into a 1-point road favorite. The Bengals and Ravens also have an over/under of 44 points. Click here to see a full list of the Week 2 NFL betting odds.
The Ravens had one of the easier Week 1 games, as they annihilated the Bills at home 47-3. They more than doubled Buffalo in both total yards and first downs, which is a rare occurrence in the NFL. Despite three rushing touchdowns, the Ravens didn’t run the ball as well as they would have liked. However, Joe Flacco looked quite comfortable in the pocket and played well, which should help limit any talk of Lamar Jackson threatening to take the starting job.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, overcame a 23-10 2nd half deficit to beat the Colts. A defensive late touchdown gave the Bengals 24 unanswered points to close out a 34-23 win in a game that the Colts controlled for the better part of three quarters.
The last time these two teams played, Tyler Boyd scored a late touchdown in Week 17 of last season to give the Bengals a win and keep the Ravens out of the playoffs. Prior to that, the Ravens dominated Cincinnati during a 20-0 early in the season, as the two teams split their meetings in 2017 with the road team winning each meeting.
With both teams winning last week while the Steelers and Browns played to a tie, the winner of this game will set all alone on top of the AFC North after Week 2. Both teams have difficult schedules the rest of September, so both need to win this game if they hope to keep up the momentum they earned with wins in Week 1.
Obviously, this is a close game to call. We only have one game worth of knowledge for each team and both sides are working on a short week. However, I thought Baltimore was the better team coming into the season, so I’ll side with them. Even on the road, I’ll lean toward the Ravens in what is essentially a toss-up game.
As mentioned, the Ravens weren’t particularly proficient at running the ball in Week 1. If you take away Jackson’s scrambles in garbage time, Baltimore averaged less than 3 yards per carry despite all three running backs finding the end zone. Alex Collins also found himself benched after losing a fumble, a mistake that could cost him playing time moving forward. However, for all of their struggles offensively, the Bills still have a solid defense, so I won’t overreact too much to Baltimore’s struggles on the ground.
The bigger takeaway from Week 1 was Flacco and the passing game. Seven different receivers had at least three catchers against Buffalo, and no Raven player had more than five receptions. There was a good balance among the new-look receiving trio of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead. Baltimore’s tight ends also contributed, giving Flacco plenty of viable targets even if the Ravens didn’t take many chances down the field.
After a sound performance from Flacco and the Baltimore passing attack against Buffalo’s secondary, I feel good about the Ravens having success against the Bengals. While the Cincinnati defense played well in the 2nd half against the Colts, they did allow Andrew Luck to throw for over 300 yards despite little help from the Indianapolis running game. The Bengals actually did a nice job of limiting the damage done by Indy’s wide receivers. However, the Ravens showed last week that they have a lot of viable targets in the passing game. Baltimore’s passing game could be tough to contain if Flacco can continue to spread the ball around.
On the flip side, the Bengals almost look like they’re limited on offense to Joe Mixon and A.J. Green. Obviously, Green will be a handful for Baltimore’s secondary, especially after facing a team in Week 1 without strong receiver play. But while Mixon looked much better in Week 1 from what we saw last season, the Baltimore defense kept LeSean McCoy bottled up for most of the game. I think they’ll be well set up to contain Mixon and force Andy Dalton to do most of the heavy lifting with his arm.
I do expect the Dalton, Mixon, and Green trio to have some success. But the Ravens seem like the deeper and more balanced team right now. I also have a little more confidence in Baltimore’s defense. This game figures to be a close, back-and-forth affair between two division rivals. However, I think the Ravens are prepared to go on the road and steal a win behind another strong outing from Flacco and the Baltimore offense.