Who would have thought when the schedule came out that this week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals may be the biggest of the season for the Baltimore Ravens? Cincinnati came into the 2011 season with a rookie quarterback and number one receiver after unloading their big name players. The Bengals are a surprising six and three and hold a tie for second place in the AFC North with our own Baltimore Ravens.
If the Ravens win this game they will vault to the top of the AFC and be sitting pretty for the number one seed and some home playoff games. If Cincinnati wins they will move into second place in the division and drop Baltimore to third. The Bengals have played surprisingly well with the rookie at the helm. Led by a great defense and strong running game, Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has had time to grow into his role on the team. Dalton and fellow rookie (wide receiver) A.J. Green have built a nice rapport with each other over the first half of the season.
The one thing Cincinnati has had going for them this season is no one expected much of them. Therefore, there was no pressure for them to exceed. Now, with the team fighting for the division lead, the Bengals will start to feel the pressure. Baltimore, on the other hand has felt this pressure from week one. The Ravens opened the season against their bitter rival the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season... in gut wrenching fashion I may add. The Ravens have played many big games this season, from both big Pittsburgh match-ups to the showdown at M&T with their former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and the New York Jets. In each game Baltimore has come out on top. The most perplexing thing about this team is that after every big win they drop a game to a sub .500 team. I guess the big upside to this week's game against the Bengals is that they do not have a losing record. If they did, the Ravens may be in trouble...
Any way you slice it, the AFC North is the most competitive division in football. This division will (hopefully) have three playoff teams coming out of it when all is said and done. If Baltimore can continue their winning ways against top tier opponents this week, then we will be the front runners in the AFC and we can all breath easy for at least another week. Lose to the Bengals and it will be an uphill climb to even make the playoffs. This is a HUGE game and the Ravens need to muster whatever emotion they have left and win in their own house. The Bengals have been a thorn in the side of Baltimore over the past few season. Let's hope that Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco took that stigma with them when they left!