The Baltimore Ravens were denied entry into the playoffs last season following a demoralizing Week 17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on New Year’s Eve.
The Ravens (1-0) aim to exact a bit of revenge and move into sole possession of first place in the AFC North on Thursday night (8:20 p.m. ET) when they travel to Paul Brown Stadium to face the Bengals (1-0).
Last season, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton capped a three-touchdown performance by tossing a 49-yard scoring strike to Tyler Boyd with 44 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to secure a 31-27 victory over Baltimore. The win allowed the Buffalo Bills to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
The 30-year-old Dalton kept his magic going on Sunday, as he completed 21 of 28 passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in a 34-23 season-opening victory versus the Indianapolis Colts.
Trusted target A.J. Green had six receptions for 92 yards and a score while second-year running back Joe Mixon also found the end zone while recording 149 yards from scrimmage (95 rushing, 54 receiving). Mixon also fared well with 96 rushing yards in the 2017 season-closing contest against the Ravens.
“I think (Mixon) can carry it 22 times,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said of the expected workload for Mixon, who last season came on after the injury to fellow running back Jeremy Hill and led the team with 626 yards to go along with four touchdowns.
“The number of receptions (Mixon) had was good, and they were well-used,” Lewis added. “He got to the right spots in the pass game, and that’s important.”
Mixon has benefited from the upgraded offensive line for the Bengals, who added first-round pick Billy Price out of Ohio State and tackle Cordy Glenn in the offseason.
“I’m very excited. Marvin came in here (at half) and told us to settle down. Can’t beat ourselves,” the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Mixon said of the win over the Colts. “We re-grouped and went one drive at a time. The line was great. They were grinding it and pounding it.”
While Cincinnati had to rally past Indianapolis, Baltimore had a far easier time of it on Sunday. The Ravens took out a bit of frustration on the Bills with a convincing 47-3 romp.
Joe Flacco completed 25 of 34 passes for 236 yards with three touchdown passes in the rout.
“Anytime you can go out there and have a performance like we did (against Buffalo), it’s great,” Flacco said. “But we have to make sure we carry it over to next week. It’s going to be a quick week. I think we’re ready for it. We always are, but we just have to make sure we build on this.”
Flacco, who tossed four TD passes in two games against the Bengals in 2017, has thrown for 3,861 career passing yards versus Cincinnati.
Baltimore wide receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead celebrated their debuts with their new team on Sunday by each reeling in a scoring strike.
Alex Collins, Javorius “Buck” Allen and Kenneth Dixon each had a rushing touchdown; however, Dixon’s availability for Thursday’s contest is unclear as he nurses a knee injury. Collins likely will remain the workhorse versus the Bengals, against whom he had 96 yards from scrimmage (78 rushing, 18 receiving) and a touchdown in his lone career meeting.
On the other side of the ball, Baltimore’s aggressive defense held Buffalo to a paltry 153 total yards of offense while also recording six sacks and a pair of interceptions
“I think (new defensive coordinator Don Martindale) called a great game,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “Whatever they threw at us, we were able to answer. We just executed on defense. It’s the first game. We did some good things, but we’re going to focus on the things that we didn’t do so well and try to correct them for Thursday.”
While Sunday’s statistics were convincing across the board for Baltimore, coach John Harbaugh saw plenty of areas to address.
“There’s a lot of things we can improve on,” Harbaugh said. “We had communication issues. We had technique issues in different areas and all three phases. You look at the good stuff and go ‘OK, fine.’ But then you look at things you need to get better at.”
Cincinnati linebacker Preston Brown (ankle) and Carlos Dunlap (calf) were listed as not participating during Tuesday’s walkthrough.
Bengals safety Shawn Williams told reporters that he hasn’t been informed of any suspension after he was ejected from the season opener after making contact to the head of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.