Bengals vs. Ravens: Why this Week 1 battle has to be won

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CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 1: Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens slips out of an attempted tackle by Wallace Gilberry #95 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 1: Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens slips out of an attempted tackle by Wallace Gilberry #95 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) /
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The Bengals and Ravens have built a rivalry defined by explosive plays and hard-fought victories. Sunday’s opener should have more of the same.

What’s the last positive thing most Bengals fans remember? Personally, it was the Week 17 beat down of the Baltimore Ravens. Sure, it was the last game of the season and both teams were going skeet shooting in Barbados. But, the Cincinnati lads showed fire and passion. It’s so easy to put the easy win on the Ravens lack of interest. Yet, it was still a W. And that showing proved the Bengals weren’t lying down.

Fast forward through the free agent madness and the NFL Draft. The regular season is upon us and the Bengals have a home opener for the first time in the Dalton-Green era. Yes, Virginia. The Bengals will be starting the year at home for the first time since 2009. If that isn’t an incentive to win, what is?

Actually, the reasons are plentiful. But, let’s stay on par with what we know are sound reasons for posting a win on Sunday.

The Frenzied Anticipation

For no other reason, it’s the first home opener for many of the Bengals players. Let’s not just think of the rookies. There are vets who have spent their careers on the road to open the season.

Getting that first win in front of the home crowd will be an exhilarating feeling. The roar of the crowd, familiar chants of “Who Dey!” It’s the NFL experience that finally gets to be savored by players who’ve only seen it on ESPN. That may seem a bit over-the-top. But, compare it to your first time walking into Paul Brown Stadium. It’s a feeling you never forget.

There’s also the little matter of letting actions speak louder than words. Since the draft, the consensus among Bengals haters has been well documented. For some odd reason, this version of the team is looked at as overrated. From the Dre Kirkpatrick re-signing, drafting Joe Mixon and John Ross to the quarterback play of Andy Dalton, the experts say it’s all folly. To be blunt, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. This is the first chance to prove what the 2017 Bengals are all about.

A Younger Team With Something To Prove 

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The names that pop off the page, when doing research on the Bengals, can cause instant elation. But, we all know that what looks good on paper doesn’t necessarily transfer to the field. Last year’s 6-9-1 record is a prime example of how that can become a reality.

But, this season, fans will have a product that matches what’s in print. Marvin Lewis, Duke Tobin et al., have built a team that should have no problems getting back on the winning end of things in 2017. There will be a good mix of youth and experience to carry the Bengals over the hump. Yes, the dreaded playoff hump. Fans could actually be part of more history in this %0th anniversary of the Bengals.

Speaking of youth, there will be rookies on the field. If they don’t get to play, there’s a screw loose in Marvelous Marv’s cranium. After witnessing the damage inflicted in Week 3 of the preseason, the jig is up. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will have the weapons he needs to implement his schemes to perfection. Let’s drop some name, shall we? Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson look like the reincarnation of Lawrence Taylor. Yeah, I could be licking my chops early. But, the evidence is beyond encouraging.

The offense has a ton to prove. Over the offseason, the ongoing concern has been the O-line. But, over the course of the preseason, they held their own. In instances they could have folded…they towed the line. They have to shine.

The RB Trio

There’s going to eventually be a changing of the guard, in the Bengals’ backfield. The presence of Joe Mixon will make that a looming reality. Jeremy Hill is coming into the Week 1 battle with a dinged ankle. The emphasis will already be on a committee performance. However, that could all change if Hill’s performance is lacking.

After the Ravens were gashed for 153 yards in the season finale, this will be their revenge match. What better way to start the season than smashing those thoughts of a Baltimore victory? Add to that a strong ground game and a Week 1 win would be complete. Rex Burkhead may be gone, but his attitude and heart should still be present.

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If it takes all three backs to inflict the same damage, so be it. But, the Bengals have to win the opener. Whether it be through the air or with a solid running game, Sunday should end 1-0.  

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