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Can the Ravens dethrone the Bengals this season?

Defensive success vs. Joe Burrow and an improved defense should give fans a reason for optimism

Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Heading into the previous season, there lingered a significant question mark regarding the Cincinnati Bengals’ status as the team to beat in the AFC North. Despite their previous Super Bowl appearance, many skeptics considered their journey to the big game a mere stroke of luck. After a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5, the Bengals’ 2-3 start seemed to confirm these doubts, leading fans and pundits alike to question their legitimacy. However, an impressive second half of the season culminating with and a return to the AFC Championship changed the narrative entirely. It is now unquestionable that the Bengals are the team to beat in the division.

While the Bengals’ postseason success may infuriate Ravens, Steelers and Browns fans, the team from Baltimore should feel optimistic about reversing that trend. Winning a division encompasses various factors beyond the final win-loss record. Performance against division rivals, strength of schedule, and timing of divisional games all come into play, especially in one of the most challenging divisions in football.

AFC North matchups are almost always tightly contested and being equipped to defeat division rivals significantly bolsters a team’s chances of a successful playoff run. In the case of the Ravens, their quarterback Lamar Jackson has proven to be successful against the Bengals throughout his career with a 6-1 overall record and a 2-1 record during Joe Burrow’s tenure. However, the Bengals have had the fortune of facing backup quarterbacks such as Josh Johnson, Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown in three separate instances, including last year’s playoff game. Despite this imbalance, the Ravens managed to stifle the Bengals’ potent offense last season, providing fans with hope for future matchups. Even with the departures of veterans Marcus Peters and Calais Campbell, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald has seemingly found some magic in containing one of the league’s most dynamic offenses.

The Ravens’ offense is expected to make significant strides compared to the unit that took the field in last year’s wild card game. Coupled with a more favorable second-place schedule, as opposed to Cincinnati’s first-place one, fans have ample reason to be optimistic about the Ravens’ prospects of reclaiming the division title in 2023.