Heading into this Week 1 matchup against the division-rival Cincinnati Bengals, with the injuries and lack of chemistry on offense, this game looked like a recipe for disaster to begin the 2017 campaign. Quarterback Joe Flacco was just coming back from his injury that sidelined him all training camp and preseason, and the Bengals were 6-2 against Baltimore since 2013, entering Sunday afternoon.
The Ravens had a lot to prove coming into the game, and not only did they prove their doubters wrong, they earned a big win in a place that has been a house of horrors for the team. Baltimore shut out the Bengals 20-0 in Paul Brown Stadium, thanks to a balanced offense and a dominant defense that accumulated five turnovers. This was their first shutout on opening day since their 27-0 performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006, and their best opening day since 2011.
Just like 2011, the team entered Week 1 with a lot to prove and show they can beat a division rival that had their number. The Ravens, just months after their heartbreaking loss in the divisional round to the Pittsburgh Steelers, went out and dominated a Steelers team that was 7-3 against Baltimore since 2007. That's counting the two playoff losses in 2008 and 2010 in Pittsburgh. The team made a statement by defeating the Steelers 35-7, and sent a message that they were a threat to win the AFC North that season.
The Ravens win in Cincinnati is in no way compared to 2011's against Pittsburgh, and for Ravens fans, this one might not be as sweet as 2011. Even CBS play-by-play announcer Spero Dedes said the win against Cincinnati on Sunday was the most impressive in the John Harbaugh era. While that is a very bold statement, this was a win the Ravens had to have to show that they can still compete and they can decisively beat a Bengals team that has had their number. Maybe the best of all for Baltimore was shutting out the proverbial Ravens killer A.J. Green.
It's only one game, and come Week 17 in Baltimore when these two teams meet again with possible playoff implications on the line for both units, it might be a different story. Especially since Vontaze Burfict, Adam Jones, Shawn Williams and John Ross will be playing for the Bengals this time. For one game though, with a team that had questions coming in and bringing back an injured quarterback that had only one week of practice, it was mission accomplished for John Harbuagh, Joe Flacco, Jeremy Maclin, Terrell Suggs, and the Ravens.