RAVENS PASSING GAME: It's impossible to know what to expect with the Ravens passing game because so many key components of it, including quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Danny Woodhead and wide receiver Breshad Perriman, weren't on the field together during the preseason. Flacco has been intercepted 21 times against the Bengals, 10 more than he has against any other team. Expect the Ravens to keep things simple for Flacco, who has some rust to work off. Protecting him is imperative.
BENGALS PASSING GAME: Starting quarterback Andy Dalton has been uneven against the Ravens in his career, throwing 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while getting sacked 22 times in 11 games. A.J. Green, on the other hand, has six touchdown catches in his past five games versus the Ravens. Dalton has said that Green had the best training camp of his career, a scary proposition for the Ravens. First-round receiver John Ross is expected to miss the game with a knee injury. Cincinnati has some questions up front.
RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens put a lot of emphasis on improving their running game, but it didn't impress at all in the preseason. They averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and the team's top two backs, Terrance West and Buck Allen, averaged 2.4 and 2.9 yards, respectively. The Ravens kept it basic in the preseason and they were working behind a makeshift offensive line. This will be an early test to see if they can establish and stick to a running game, which they haven't done since 2014.
BENGALS RUNNING GAME: There is some curiosity with how the Bengals will divvy up their carries. Jeremy Hill, the team's starter for much of the past three seasons, currently sits atop the depth chart. However, there is a perception that rookie second-round pick Joe Mixon will ultimately be the starter, and perhaps sooner rather than later. Mixon looked more explosive than Hill in the preseason. The Bengals also still have Giovani Bernard, who is coming back from a knee injury. Dalton has hurt the Ravens with his legs.
RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: From 2006 to 2011, the Ravens had a top-five rushing defense every year. They got back to that standard last season as they allowed 89.4 yards per game, which ranked fifth in the NFL. With so much bulk and athleticism inside with Michael Pierce, Brandon Williams and Brent Urban, there's no reason why the Ravens shouldn't have a dominant run defense. There will be pressure on weak-side linebackers Kamalei Correa and Patrick Onwuasor, who might rotate alongside C.J. Mosley.
BENGALS RUSH DEFENSE: Cincinnati's rush defense struggled at times last season, allowing 113.3 yards per game while ranking 21st in the NFL. They'll be without starting inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Sunday as he serves a three-game suspension. Kevin Minter, who spent the past four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, takes over as the Bengals middle linebacker. Nick Vigil is also a first-year starter in the middle. Familiar faces like Karlos Dansby, Rey Maualuga and Domata Peko are gone.
RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: Jimmy Smith got through training camp healthy and his reward is a likely matchup with star wide receiver A.J. Green, who has tormented the Ravens. The Ravens kept things vanilla in the preseason, and their starting defense still didn't allow a single scoring drive. Players have spoken excitedly about the various looks their personnel will allow them to play. It will have to start with getting a pass rush up front. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has a lot of weapons he can employ.
BENGALS PASS DEFENSE: The Bengals have flummoxed Joe Flacco over the years with their Cover-2 schemes. However, they'll be without top cover cornerback Adam Jones, who is serving a one-game suspension, and likely starting strong safety Shawn Williams who is dealing with a dislocated elbow. Like the Ravens, the Bengals added two edge players in the draft and they're banking on Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson aiding the pass rush. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins remains one of the league's best.
RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Justin Tucker looked in midseason form during the preseason, hitting on all seven of his field-goal attempts, including two from beyond 50 yards. The Ravens lost several core special teamers, so they'll have to lean on newcomers like Bam Bradley, Chuck Clark and Vince Mayle to solidify their coverage teams, which have been very good over the years. Michael Campanaro and Chris Moore are expected to handle return duties.
BENGALS SPECIAL TEAMS: Randy Bullock, who made five of six field-goal attempts last year after joining the Bengals, beat out rookie fifth-round draft pick Jake Elliott in the preseason. Bullock has played for five different organizations and has made 81.4 percent of his field-goal attempts in his career. Kevin Huber is in his ninth season as Cincinnati's punter. Wide receiver Alex Erickson finished second in the NFL last season with an average of 27.9 yards per kickoff return.
RAVENS INTANGIBLES: If the Ravens are going win an AFC North title, they have to figure out how to get past the Bengals. Cincinnati has beaten the Ravens in six of the past seven meetings and the Ravens haven't won at Paul Brown Stadium since the 2011 season. They'll also need to clean up their play on the road. The Ravens are just 4-12 over the past two seasons away from home. The Ravens had a difficult training camp, but they're getting healthier at the right time.
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BENGALS INTANGIBLES: This is a big season for the Bengals, who had made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons before last year's injury-marred 6-9-1 campaign. Marvin Lewis, the team's head coach since 2003, is entering the final year of his contract, and the Bengals are entering a youth movement of sorts. They have the third-youngest roster to start the season in the NFL. The Bengals haven't had a losing record at home since 2010.
PREDICTION: Both of these teams have had a pretty tumultuous couple of months with injuries, suspensions and roster losses. The Ravens have been hit hard on offense. The Bengals have been hit hard on defense. It's set up for a potentially busy day for the punters and a regular-season opener that might not be aesthetically pleasing. It's dicey enough that Joe Flacco will have had just five days of practice to prepare for the season and to get acclimated. When you add in the fact that he faces a Bengals defense that has had his number, it pushes things in Cincinnati's favor.