BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 20: Paul Kruger #99 of the Baltimore Ravens defends against Jermaine Gresham #84 of the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 31-24. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
1.) Running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis Vs. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis:
This is where the game starts and ends. Will the Bengals be able to run the ball on the new Ravens defense. Of course, Cincinnati may choose to run the ball around Lewis and Haloti Ngata by testing the Ravens new outside linebackers early and seeing if Ray can still cover sideline to sideline.
The run game will be crucial to the Bengals if they want to set up play action and keep the Ravens pass rush honest. The battle may be orchestrated by Lewis on the defensive side of the ball but it will be the outside linebackers and defensive line that are truly tested here as the Bengals may choose to run mostly to the outside.
Two big questions:
2.) Can "The Law Firm" handle the full work load of an AFC North running back? In New England he was just one part of a rushing unit that was underutilized and ran mostly against passing defenses, without having eight in the box.2.)Ravens pass rush Vs. Bengals offensive line:
The Bengals offensive line is strong at the tackle positions with left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right tackle Andre Smith but they have a rookie right guard and could be weakest up the middle. The middle of the line is exactly where the Ravens hope to start their pass rush in 2012. Baltimore will count on inside pass rushers like Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee and a mixture of disguised blitz packages to try and confuse the Bengals offensive line, using players from the secondary on blitzes such as Bernard Pollard.
Two big questions?
1.) Can new defensive coordinator Dean Pees blitzing schemes make up for the loss of Defensive Player Of the Year Terrell Suggs?
2.) Will the Bengals be able to hold the middle of the line on passing plays, giving quarterback Andy Dalton time to find players down field for big passing gains?
3.) Bengals secondary Vs. Ravens new passing attack:
It is no secret that the Baltimore Ravens wish to air it out this season with their collection of young speedy receivers and veteran Anquan Boldin moving back inside to his best role of slot receiver. The Bengals will start the season without first round draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick against Baltimore so the starting corners will be Leon Hall and Nate Clements with Terence Newman as the nickle corner. The Ravens have speed to spare on the receiving core for the first time in ages. Will this speed be enough to loosen up the defense for the running game to be even more effective?
Two big questions:
1.) Will the Ravens get enough production out of the third receiver slot to keep defenses in pass heavy protections and negate double coverages on Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin?
2.) Has Joe Flacco taken the next big step, with the help of quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, in becoming an elite NFL quarterback?