The Baltimore Ravens open up the 2017 campaign on the road for a divisional match-up against the Cincinnati Bengals. With an off-season full of questions for the Ravens, especially on the offensive side of the ball, here are five predictions on what I believe will happen this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
1.) The Ravens will run the ball early and often
The biggest concern for the Ravens’ offense last season was the disappearance of the run game. The Ravens ranked 28th last season averaging 91.4 rushing yards per game (YPG) and four yards per carry (YPC). Although averaging four yards a carry is good, the Ravens would stop running the ball in the second half every week. They ran as few as four, yes four, running plays in the second half of a few games last season. With the addition of coach Greg Roman, the bigger offensive line, and Joe Flacco missing all of the preseason with a back injury; expect the Ravens to come out running to help Flacco ease back into everything.
2.) The secondary will be tested, but ultimately come out on top
What better way to test out the new and improved secondary than going up against both A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert? With the additions of Tony Jefferson, Brandon Carr, and first round pick Marlon Humphrey, the Ravens have decided to go all in on stopping the air attack they endured most of last season. Everybody remembers the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game winning drive on Christmas night, but those types of drives were the norm against a banged up, makeshift secondary. With this revamped secondary, I expect noted Raven killer, A.J. Green to have a good game with around 100 yards and a touchdown, but the Ravens will intercept a pass or two and seal the game.
3.) Patrick Onwuasor steals the other inside linebacker job form Kamalei Correa
One of the main position battles this off-season was finding Zachary Orr’s replacement at the inside linebacker spot opposite C.J. Mosley. Kamalei Correa, the Ravens’ second round draft pick back in 2016, had an abysmal rookie campaign ending up with only four tackles and a forced fumble on the season. Correa was given the starting job over undrafted, special team ace Onwuasor for week one, but I believe he comes out a little slower than expected, while Onwuasor plays lights out.
4.) Five different Ravens players come up with a sack
The Ravens’ front seven is easily top three in the league. The Bengals’ offensive line is predicted to be bottom five. With the Ravens drafting both Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, Terrell Suggs will not have to play as many snaps, which will hopefully keep him fresh and healthy. Let’s not forget studs Brandon Williams and Michael Piece and emerging star Brent Urban in the middle of the fearsome defensive line. Expect Andy Dalton to be lying on the ground most of the game.
5.) The Ravens finally win a game in Cincinnati
The last time the Ravens won a game in Cincinnati was 2011, and most of the games since were played week 17 when the injury bug had already struck and were usually meaningless. This time around, both teams are as healthy as they will be all season and the outcome will actually have meaning at the end of the season. It’s always great to start the season with a win, but it’s even better to start off beating a division opponent who has gotten the best of us lately.