The Baltimore Ravens main rival will always and forever be the Cleveland Browns...kidding! It's the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their matchups together are always legendary and they are always close. Each time these two get together, it's a heavyweight fight with a lot on the line. Recently, it has been another team in this division that has given the Ravens fits over the last 3 years in the form of Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals. While the Bengals playoff drought and misery are well documented, their last playoff win was January of 1991, the Bengals have owned the Ravens.
Now, I'm not saying the Ravens have had the Bengals number up until recently, as a matter of fact, the all-time series is evened up at 20-20. This series has been very evenly matched ever since the Ravens inaugural year of 1996 and every game is just as neck and neck as the Ravens and the Steelers matchups. The Ravens have hit a string of bad luck over the last 3 years against their AFC North foes as the Bengals have a 5 game winning streak against Baltimore. Including 2 straight years of series sweeps.
Funny thing is, the last time the Ravens beat the Bengals, a 20-17 overtime win at home in 2013, wide receiver and Ravens killer AJ Green caught a Hail Mary pass from Dalton to send the game into overtime. He has a habit of doing things like that against the Ravens. He can't help it, he just does it. Like catching a 54-yard touchdown pass in the final week of the 2013 season to help eliminate the Ravens from playoff contention or catching a 77-yard touchdown pass in the 2014 home opener or catching 2 touchdown passes, including an 80 yarder, in last year's defeat of the Ravens to sink Baltimore to 0-3.
I know the Ravens are coming off an injury riddled 2015 and are heading into this season with a lot of unanswered questions, add up the fact that the Bengals are coming off their 5th straight playoff appearance, but this losing streak has to end and it has to end now. Getting beat by a divisional opponent that many times, especially in the way they have lost these games, is unacceptable.
The Bengals have become what the Ravens used to be. A fast, physical team that can beat you up front with their defense and a well-balanced offense that can pound you into submission with their running game or take the top off a defense with the deep ball. With this style of play, the Bengals have won the AFC North 2 out of the last 3 years, while the Ravens have finished 3rd three straight years.
Don't get me wrong, it is always fun watching the Ravens beat the Steelers, but for the 2016 season the first step in winning the AFC North division for the first time since 2012 is beating the Cincinnati Bengals. Throughout the Ravens history they have always tried to build a team to beat the Steelers, but for this upcoming season, they must hope that they have built a team that can finally topple the Bengals.
I almost forgot, there is one more step. One gigantic step.
Stop AJ Green. Please.