The moment every football fan has been waiting for…the regular season! The Ravens open up against the reigning division champs, which will be no small task, despite playing at home.
Look for the Ravens to ride the hot hand from preseason and stick to the running game early on. Unfortunately, the Ravens will have to do so without their original starter, as Rice will miss this and next week’s game — against the Bengals and Steelers. With Rice out, backup Bernard Pierce will look to carry most of the load for the Ravens in the backfield. (KO: Don’t sleep on Lorenzo Taliaferro, either.)
Handing the ball off to Pierce and orchestrating the offense will be quarterback, Joe Flacco, who will likely be the deciding factor in how the Ravens play this Sunday. With Flacco getting an upgraded receiving core, he will look to throw his way over a very stingy Cincinnati defense to complement the steady rush attack.
The Ravens, thus far, this offseason have been plagued by legal troubles (the most in the NFL this offseason) and injuries, especially at cornerback. Jimmy Smith said recently in an interview that he is “100-percent certain” he will be ready to go by Sunday, which is a positive sign seeing as the secondary will have to go against Bengals’ playmaker AJ Green. Also, Ladarius Webb seems to be on track to play after missing the entire preseason.
Along with the cornerbacks, the defensive line has taken serious hits — notably to young players such as 4th round pick, Brent Urban, and Kapron Lewis-Moore who are both lost for the season. Even with such losses, the defensive line should be fine, especially with veteran Haloti Ngata leading the charge against a formidable Bengals offensive line.
Overall, I think the Ravens will come out and play smash mouth football the way we are accustomed to seeing. While the Bengals are a great team with a high powered offense, I still think they will fall short in the home opener against the Ravens. In the end, the Ravens running game success from the preseason should continue to blossom. Meanwhile, the defense should gel together with help from rookie CJ Mosley and second-year safety Matt Elam, who among others figure to pressure Andy Dalton and take the game for their first win of the season.