Week 2 of the new NFL season kickstarts with an AFC North Divisional clash between arch rivals, Baltimore and the Bengals in downtown Cincinnati.
Both are bouncing off of strong week one victories and the winner of this one will have achieved something noteworthy early in the season – they’ll be the only team in the division with a 2-0 record.
Baltimore thumped a hapless Bills outfit at home last week and will enter The Jungle confident whilst Cincinnati spoiled the return of Andrew Luck when upending Indy at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indiana.
Here are the three keys to TNF;
1 DISTRIBUTOR DALTON
Andy Dalton entered the league with a bang. He partnered up with fellow rookie AJ Green and immediately formed a deadly tandem. Since then, he has taken the Bengals to the playoffs on a few occasions without winning any of those games.
Nowadays, the heat is on everyone inside the Bengals and the two men under the most scrutiny are Dalton and head coach Marvin Lewis.
Dalton can play quarterback but his offensive line has been inconsistent and too many times the running game has slipped up.
This season should be different.
Joe Mixon looked like a Le’Veon Bell clone last week and should always be a viable option on the ground or catching passes. John Ross showed signs of life but needs to be more involved whilst Tyler Eifert showed his worth after two successive years ruined with back issues.
AJ Green is also a viable commodity but we’ll get to him soon…
2 DOMINANT RAVEN DEFENCE
For Eric Weddle, the end is nearer than the beginning. Terrell Suggs is balling but his best is behind him. Brandon Carr has always been vulnerable against elite offensive forces (AJ Green for example), but despite any of that, Baltimore continues to possess a staunch, determined and capable defensive unit.
Maybe it’s the legacy left by Ray Lewis, Suggs and Ed Reed or maybe it’s the coaching.
They only conceded three points last week and a meagre 70 yards through the air. They also mustered up six sacks and gave up just 13% of third downs.
Keep those numbers in the same stratosphere this week and a Raven win looks likely.
3 SUPERSTARS STAND OUT
53-men are required to fulfil an NFL squad but more often than not it’s the one or two superstars who make all the difference.
Looking across these two teams, I only see two superstars and they both reside in Cincinnati.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins and WR AJ Green.
Atkins wrecks games from the inside-out and Baltimore will be well aware of the need to block him, most likely with double-teams.
Green is another matter altogether.
Yes, Weddle will likely shade toward Green’s side of the grass but containing Mixon will likely be a priority to ensure Cincnnati do not own possession at home.
Meaning, Green will get opportunities one-on-one against a squad missing #1 CB Jimmy Smith.
Green has posted a 10-catch, 227-yard, 2 TD game against the men from Maryland and Carr was the man who gave up 329 yards to Calvin Johnson…
AJ Green – put up a 227 and 2 TD against Baltimore & their #1 corner is injured.
Joe Mixon – second-coming of Lev Bell in the AFC North. Air and ground, he eats yards.
Michael Crabtree – safe hands, red zone beast and becoming Joe Flacco’s No. 1 target.
Tyler Eifert anytime TD (2nd half) $8
AJ Green +84.5 receiving yards
Michael Crabtree +3.5 receptions $1.74
Both teams score 15+ points $1.53
It’s Thursday Night Football, on Friday morning. Enjoy this clash between two bitter AFC North rivals.
Who wins, why and by how much ?