The Ravens have every right to be sky-high after scoring back-to-back victories over two of the best teams in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to come back down any time soon.

Sure, the Cincinnati Bengals have been kryptonite to the Ravens in the recent past, but the winless team Lamar Jackson and Co. will face Sunday won’t bear any resemblance to the ones that regularly found ways break hearts in Baltimore during the late stages of the Marvin Lewis era.


And it wouldn’t matter if it did, because this Ravens team bears little resemblance to the ones that — despite all the success those solid teams enjoyed with Joe Flacco running the show — inexplicably fell flat against some unimposing opponents.

Well, inexplicably might not be the right word, since there’s always a reason why good teams sometimes don’t play well against bad ones. The NFL schedule is designed to promote parity, even if the New England Patriots never got that memo, and just about every team that takes the field has a puncher’s chance of knocking off somebody better.

The old Bengals had plenty of issues, but they had Andy Dalton and A.J. Green to make big plays and they generally featured a stout defensive unit that kept pressure on Flacco and a fairly conventional Ravens attack.

Perhaps John Harbaugh’s use of the word “revolutionary” to describe this year’s offense was a tad hyperbolic, but the offense that he and his coaching staff has built around Jackson has so many different looks that even the evil genius Bill Belichick was confounded by it last week.

The Bengals and the Ravens’ other divisional rivals pretty much knew what they were getting during the Harbaugh/Flacco era, and that wasn’t a bad thing. The Ravens will be very fortunate to have the same level of success during the early years of Jackson’t career as they did with Flacco, who reached the playoffs in each of his first five seasons and won a Super Bowl.

But anyone who has watched Jackson bloom over what amounts to one full season as the starting quarterback can see how he has changed the energy level of the entire team.

It might seem crazy to compare him with Ray Lewis in that regard, because he doesn’t possess one of those bigger-than-life personalities and he’s still growing into a leadership role, but in his own soft-spoken way he seems to have the same kind of emotional impact on the team.

In the run-up to the Ravens’ big victory over the Patriots, Belichick referred to Jackson as “a problem," but he’s really a whole bunch of problems who forces defensive coordinators to pick their poison.

That’s why it’s hard to imagine that the beleaguered Bengals will suddenly succeed in figuring him out when so many better teams have failed.

The only question is whether the Ravens will have trouble getting up to speed against a new Bengals quarterback that has yet to throw his first pass in the NFL.

Ryan Finley was a fourth-round draft pick out of North Carolina State whose resume is so thin that Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith told reporters Wednesday that he went to YouTube to scout some of his college performances.

Harbaugh acknowledged the challenge of facing a totally unfamiliar quarterback and compared the situation with what the Bengals faced last year when they came to Baltimore to face Jackson in his first NFL start.

There are some parallels. Finley is a mobile quarterback who can scramble and throw accurately on the run, but he dropped to the fourth round of last year’s draft because pro scouts were not impressed with his arm strength.

The Ravens have faced two of the league’s best multi-threat quarterbacks — Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson — on the road, so it’s unlikely they’ll see much that they haven’t already encountered, especially with Green now ruled out of the game.


The only way they figure to lose this game is if they find a way to beat themselves.

They face four straight playoff contenders after they leave Cincinnati, but the idea that there might be a letdown after the Patriots win or that they’ll look past the Bengals defies logic.

The strength of their remaining schedule makes a victory over the Bengals crucial to their chances of holding off the resurgent Pittsburgh Steelers and earning a first-round playoff bye if they win their second straight AFC North title.

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