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NFL Week 2 and 11 preview: Cincinnati Bengals versus Baltimore Ravens

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The AFC North is one of the toughest divisions in football, thanks in part to the Baltimore Ravens. Even so, the Cincinnati Bengals have had far more success in the head-to-head matchups against the Ravens than in those against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If we know one thing about the series between Cincinnati and Baltimore, it’s to expect the unexpected. Some crazy outcomes have been on display in recent years and that will probably occur again in 2018. The Bengals play their home opener against the Ravens in a Week 2 Thursday Night Football clash and for the first time in years do not close the season against the Ravens. So, what should we expect from Baltimore in 2018?

Team: Baltimore Ravens
#RavensFlock and “Play like a Raven”

SB Nation Blog:
Baltimore Beatdown

AFC North

For the 11th season in a row, John Harbaugh leads the Ravens. Baltimore had some great runs under his watch from 2008-2014, where the team made the postseason in seven out of the eight seasons.

However, Baltimore is coming off of three consecutive years of not being in the playoffs, including two seasons under .500. Quarterback Joe Flacco has shown some signs of regression since his amazing 2012 postseason run, prompting the team to select Lamar Jackson with the No. 32 overall pick this spring.
Harbaugh has done some great things with the Ravens, but because of the recent lack of success, one has to wonder how long his leash is at the moment.

2017 Record:

Recapping last season:
Over the years, this rivalry between the Bengals and Ravens has been very back-and-forth. That was no more obvious than the two 2017 matchups. Baltimore stomped Cincinnati to start off the season, 20-0, with the Ravens taking advantage of five Andy Dalton turnovers (four interceptions, one lost fumble).

However, with the Bengals playing only for pride in Week 17 and the Ravens trying to become a Wild Card team, more of the trademark wackiness from this rivalry ensued. On a fourth-and-12 with 44 seconds to play, Dalton hit Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown to send the Ravens home for the rest of January.

Even with their crushing loss at the end of the year, Baltimore finished the 2017 in a strong way. They went 6-3 over the final nine contests and played some of their best ball down the stretch.

History with Cincinnati:
Get this: in 44 games between the Ravens and Bengals, the overall record currently sits at 22-22. Yet, despite the parity in the overall rivalry, Marvin Lewis has had some decent success against his former employer.

Under Lewis, Cincinnati is 18-12 against Baltimore since 2003. Additionally, since Andy Dalton became the Bengals’ quarterback in 2011, the team is 8-6 against the Ravens.

And, it’s in the Dalton era where some of the craziest contests have ensued in the rivalry. Last year’s finale aside, a 2014 overtime game that was created by a Hail Mary to A.J. Green and the shootout in Week 3 of 2015 have recently decided outcomes of these games.
2018 season outlook:
The Ravens had arguably the most enigmatic draft class of any team this spring. Instead of grabbing those speedy outside receivers they have often loved, they grabbed two pass-catching tight ends with their first four picks in Hayden Hurst at No. 25 and Mark Andrews at No. 86 overall.

They also grabbed gigantic tackle Orlando Brown at No. 83 overall to try and shore up their offensive line. In free agency, they also attempted to bolster the offense by adding wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown, quarterback Robert Griffin III and re-signing guard James Hurst.

Baltimore didn’t make any splashy moves for their defense, as the unit ranked 12th in yards allowed per game in 2017. However, some day three talent they grabbed in Anthony Averett, Kenny Young and DeShon Elliott should help with depth on that side of the ball.

2018 Games/Times:
Week 2, Thursday, September 13th, 8:20 p.m. ET on NFL Network

Week 11, Sunday, November 18th, 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS

Week 2 Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

Week 11 M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

Odds of Bengals victories:
Week 2: 35-40 percent

Week 11: 50-55 percent

The very early outlook:
It’s a perfect storm of issues for the Bengals as they host Baltimore in Week 2. Star linebacker Vontaze Burfict will be right in the middle of serving his four-game suspension, while the team still can’t consistently find ways to beat quality teams on the national primetime stage.

While Baltimore may be hitting its stride in the middle of the year and they’ll be hosting the Bengals in Week 11, Burfict will be back and Cincinnati’s youngsters might be getting comfortable in their roles.

As you can tell by the record, the teams appear to almost always split the series. We expect that to probably be the case again this year.

Top 5 plays: Which incredible Bengals plays in the last 30 years will make the top 5?

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The play. 

The one moment when execution, skill spontaneity and a whole lot of magic can mix together to create legend. Over the last 30 years there have been hundreds of incredible individual plays by Bengals players. We wanted to pinpoint the top five. Everyone has an opinion. We have criteria. 

Through your responses and our own research, we chopped our calculation into four parts: 25 percent memorable, 25 percent impactful, 25 percent entertaining, 25 percent impossible. 

That left us with the top five Bengals plays of the last 30 years.

This isn't about a list, though. This is about the story well beyond the play. 

This is about learning the secrets behind the magician's most incredible act and the ensuing legend that lives on in Cincinnati, Bengals and NFL history. 

The five-week series will run every Thursday afternoon at and on the Bengals app beginning June 21.

Projecting Cincinnati Bengals rookie ratings in Madden 19

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The NFL offseason means it is Madden 19 time, with the Cincinnati Bengals being one of the more interesting teams in the upcoming video game.

Those Bengals drafted 11 players and added other interesting names in undrafted free agency, making for a must-see influx of talent.

The Bengals don’t have many leaked Madden 19 ratings yet, and the ones that have aren’t official from EA Sports. Before real numbers drop, let’s take a stab at projecting the draft class.
It’s not hard to evaluate Price on film and assign him letter grades when formulating an overall rating.

Price is a nasty blocker with power a bit on the smaller side who can win with smarts. Based on his film in college and sheer versatility, this is a case of his talent weighing much heavier than draft slot. He was arguably the best at his position in the class, so he’s looking at one of the highest overall ratings for a first-round pick.
The same reason the Bengals loved Bates in the second round is why he’ll come close to an 80 right out of the gates — he’s everywhere.

Bates is a turnover machine and one of the few rare prospects who can drop back deep and let his instincts and range go to work. He’s going to do so right away for the Bengals, perhaps bumping veterans out of the lineup.

Expect high awareness and speed ratings here for Bates, who will add quite the fun element to the defense in Madden.
Hubbard seems headed for a rotational role with the Bengals in 2018, which isn’t a bad thing.

An endless motor and some interesting athleticism make Hubbard a threat in a rotation as deep as Cincinnati’s next year, but it doesn’t translate to a high Madden rating.

Longtime players of the game know the type, though. Hubbard is the virtual player who comes in when the starters are gassed and wreaks havoc.
With Vontaze Burfict suspended to start the season, Jefferson actually has a huge role to play for the Bengals on the field.

Jefferson shined over the course of his final collegiate year because he was playing more downhill and attacking. He should do the same for the Bengals right away, especially once Burfict is back.

Those in charge of the ratings though only have one strong season to go off of with Jefferson.
Walton’s sheer talent fell off the radar because injuries derailed his final season in college.

At his best in 2016 though, Walton drummed up 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns on a 5.3 per-carry average and he’s now a possible Giovani Bernard replacement down the road.

Keeping the devalued nature of his position in mind, Walton will have a higher-than-expected ranking, even if he’s still the third-ranked back on the Bengals’ Madden depth chart.

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