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Ravens vs. Bengals potential ‘X’ factors: Former 1st-rounders could play pivotal roles

This early season divisional clash could be decided by key contributions from handful of players in all three phases.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens The Enquirer-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens will be on the road in Week 2 where they’ll take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Although they are heading into the matchup as mild underdogs against two-time defending AFC North champions who got shellacked in a lopsided loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 1.

In almost every game, there is a play or two made that helped swing the momentum back into a team’s favor or extend their lead to put an opponent away for good. There are a handful of select players who aren’t being talked about as much ahead of this game that could be pivotal in determining the outcome of this Week 2 contest.

Below are a handful of those individual players that could prove to be deciding factors.

OLB Jadeveon Clowney

Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The three-time Pro Bowler had an underrated yet very disruptive Ravens debut against the Houston Texans—who drafted him No. 1 overall in 2014—in Week 1 even though it wasn’t reflected in the box score. Clowney could be poised for his breakout game in purple, black, and white after watching his most recent former team—the Cleveland Browns—absolutely terrorize and torment Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ offensive line with relentless pressure.

One of the most creative and effective schematic wrinkles that the Browns used to constantly harass Cincinnati’s two-time Pro Bowl signal caller was letting four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett move inside. Cleveland Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz let him stand up and pick which interior offensive lineman he wanted to pass on his way to collapsing the pocket from up the middle. Although Clowney isn’t quite the same level of elite athlete as Garrett and the likelihood of him attempting to pull a crossover on Bengals center Ted Karras is low, he could still be a very disruptive force as a pass rusher who could take turns with Odafe Oweh lineup inside and out.

DB Geno Stone

NFL: OCT 09 Bengals at Ravens Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The fourth-year pro is slated to make his ninth career start against the Bengals on Sunday in place of the injured Marcus Williams who is out with a pec injury. Luckily he got 8 games of invaluable experience under his belt last season under the same circumstances when Williams missed time with a dislocated wrist.

While he wasn’t and isn’t the same splashy ballhawk as the high-priced defensive back that he’s stepping in for, Stone is still a stabilizing presence in the backend that can free up Kyle Hamilton to go make plays all over the field and dissuade quarterbacks from trying to throw the ball deep down the field. In college and for flashes in the NFL, Stone has shown a nose for the ball and even though he only has one career interception in the regular season, it was a brilliant showcase of the playmaking skills a team looks for in a starting caliber free safety.

WR Rashod Bateman

Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The 2021 first-rounder had a solid Week 1 outing by hauling in all three of his targets 35 receiving yards in his first game back since having his 2022 season cut short by a Lisfranc foot injury. With all the attention that first-round rookie Zay Flowers and three-time Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr. will likely garner, Bateman could be the beneficiary of some key one-on-one situations where he could take advantage to make some big plays and even score. When healthy, he has proven that he possesses a complete skill set in terms of hands, route, running ability, elusiveness in the open field, and a natural ability to separate.

P Jordan Stout

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The entire league is well aware of the type of reliably clutch weapon that future Hall of Fame kicker Justin Tucker is but the second-year punter appears to be on his way to establishing himself as well. In Week 1, Stout averaged 49.8 yards per punt on five attempts and pinned the Texans back in their own 20-yard line three times.

His ability to flip the field and put opposing offenses in a disadvantageous field position by pinning them back deep is a tremendous asset and weapon. It can help the defense potentially set their team’s offense with a shorter distance to travel to get into scoring position for a touchdown or field goal in what will likely be a close game.