On paper, the Ravens have an easy path to 4-2.
The 0-5 Bengals head to Baltimore loaded with injuries, a sputtering offense, and a horrid defense.
But with one poor performance, the Ravens could set themselves in poor position for the rest of the season. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
“The records don't matter in the National Football League, contrary to what people that don't actually have to play the games and go out there and perform or coach the games might think,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It's not college football. The difference between teams is not that great, and you better go out there and play your best every single week.”
But Harbaugh’s comment isn’t just lip-service like expected. When the Bengals and the Ravens play, the result is always up in the air.
The all-time record between Cincinnati and Baltimore is 23-23. The two have split the season series for the last three years, including a back-breaking 31-27 win for the Bengals to knock the Ravens out of the playoffs.
“We haven't done too well against the Bengals the last six years, seven years,” Harbaugh said. “They've had our number a number of times, and it'll be a physical AFC North battle.”
With a new-look offense led by former LA Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals have already given a scare to the Seahawks in a 21-20 week one loss. Since then, though, the offense hasn’t done enough.
Despite that, Cincinnati still has three losses by a combined eight points. Against a Ravens defense that’s struggled defensively to start the season, the opportunity is there for the Bengals.
“It’s not an 0-5 offense,” defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “They still have talent. They still have (Andy Dalton) back there. They have two really good running backs: (Joe Mixon) is getting downhill, and that’s going to be a great challenge for us. And we all know, (Tyler Boyd), the nemesis that he’s been for us the last three times we’ve played them.”
With a win, the Ravens will set themselves up to be at least 4-3 headed into the bye week after a trip to Seattle next week. Waiting after the bye is New England at home on Sunday Night Football and Cincinnati once again.
A win, and the Ravens will set themselves up with a remarkably difficult end of season schedule. A loss, and the Ravens will have an uphill battle the rest of the way.
“They had some close games,” Earl Thomas said. “Even in Seattle, they played really well. So, we understand in the NFL, it's hard to win, regardless of who you're playing. So, you have to bring your A-game. If you don't, you'll get upset."
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