Pick: Ravens -2

The Bengals go into Baltimore with something to prove. After coming into last season as a SuperBowl contender they had a strong regular season and won their division but were unable to advance in the playoffs. They have a balanced roster featuring veterans and young players and it’s up to them to take this team further this season. The Ravens are a team that nobody seems to be talking about yet they have all of the pieces to be double digits win team this season.

The Bengals made a long-term commitment to quarterback Andy Dalton in the offseason with a 6 year 115 million dollar extension. He has yet to win a playoff game so the team made what many people see as a risky signing in making the commitment to a quarterback who has shown to be efficient in the regular season however he has yet to prove he can win post-season games. He did establish himself as a top quarterback in the regular season while passing for over 4000 yards and 33 touchdowns. They released Benjarvis Green –Ellis, their leading rusher and touchdown scorer over the last 2 seasons and that puts the pressure on second year running back Giovanni Bernard as well as expected backup Jeremy Hill who will likely get the carries around the goalline. The Bengals offense had a strong overall performance last season finishing in the top 10 in overall offense. The defense has replaced departed coordinator Mike Zimmer with linebackers coach Paul Guenther who is known for using various blitzes. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins returns after losing all of last season to a knee injury. If he returns to form it will make a huge impact on the defense overall.

The Ravens dealt with the drama surrounding the domestic violence issue that happened with Ray Rice all offseason long and he will be suspended for the first two games. The team made what may become the most significant free agent signing in the league when it signed veteran wideout Steve Smith. He showed no signs of decline last season and now has a chip on his shoulder. He will make life much easier for Torrey Smith and Tight End Dennis Pita. Quarterback Joe Flacco is coming off a subpar season but has proven he can make the big throws in clutch situations. The have also bulked up along the defensive line with a combination of rookies and second year players. Bernard Pierce will be the starter in Rice’s absence for the first two games. Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was impressive in training camp and may get some carries as well.

Tough game to call, it could be very low scoring however it could just as easily be very high scoring. These games are important to both teams and their quarterbacks, especially Dalton who is coming off another disappointment in the playoffs and he is trying to justify his new contract

Pick: Ravens -2

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