The Ravens' 10-9 win on Monday wasn't pretty (did you expect something different against the Jets?). Now the Ravens turn their attention to the Bengals, who got trucked by the Patriots in Week 1. Here's what I'll be focusing on during Sunday's AFC North showdown:
1. The Ravens' focus: Ravens coach John Harbaugh admitted to being relieved that the Jets are in his team's rearview mirror, but Sunday's head-on collision with the Bengals, the reigning AFC North champs, is coming up fast. "It doesn't matter, because that's our challenge," Harbaugh said. Having one fewer day to rest and prepare is a detriment, but the Ravens appear to be up to the task, at least mentally and emotionally. The Ravens' focus Monday reminded me of last year's playoff win against the Patriots. And if they can avoid the mental mistakes that cost them against the Bengals in 2009, I like their chances.
2. The reality show duo: This summer, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens shared the spotlight Sunday nights on VH1. Now the two talented and outspoken wide receivers are sharing it in Cincinnati. Sure, they're getting up there in age, but "Batman and Robin" are a pretty strong pairing at the position. "I just think that you look at their front, they've got weapons all the way across," Harbaugh said. Unlike the Jets' pu-pu platter at wideout, Ocho and Owens will test the Ravens' cornerbacks. If Fabian Washington and Chris Carr (and perhaps Lardarius Webb) flunk it, the Ravens will be in big trouble.
3. Slowing down Cedric: In their first meeting a year ago, Cincy's Cedric Benson became the first running back in 40 games to gain more than 100 yards on the ground against the Ravens. It was even more surprising when he followed it up with another 100-yard game a month later. Can the Ravens stymie Benson and make the Bengals offense one-dimensional? "He's run the ball better than you're supposed to run it on our defense, and that's a big thing for us," Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "We've got to stop that run."
4. Cincy's shutdown corners: Ravens wide receivers caught just nine total passes in their two games against the Bengals in 2009 because they were blanketed by Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, one of the top cornerback tandems in the NFL. Things will be a little tougher for Hall and Joseph this year. Derrick Mason is still around, but Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams, and Kelley Washington are gone — replaced by Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. It will be interesting to see how the Bengals deploy their corners against the Ravens. "We're going to respect them and attack them accordingly," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said.
5. T.J.'s return: Speaking of Housh, the former Bengals wideout returns to Cincinnati, where he had seven productive seasons, and he is the Ravens' offensive X-factor. The Bengals can't cover everybody (see No. 4), so Houshmandzadeh's presence could end up being the difference in this critical division game.