Change is necessary when you fall as far as the Ravens did in 2007. There were high hopes coming off a 13-3 AFC North division title and a second round playoff exit to the prodigal Colts left a bitter taste in mouth of fans. Things spiraled out of control quickly as poor showings on Monday night games, multiple injuries to key personnel and a growing feeling that the head coach had lost his team left last season one that many Baltimore fans wanted to forget.
So as the team opens 2008 facing divisional rival Cincinnati there will be many new wrinkles to add to the contest.
Let?s start on the sideline. John Harbaugh has spent most of his career around football as he heads his first team. His training camp has been more physical with an emphasis on accountability. His quarterback will be the man whose future is apparently now, first round pick Joe Flacco, who won the battle for the spot essentially by default.
The team?s most experienced option, the enigmatic Kyle Boller is out for the season with a shoulder injury and Troy Smith has lost a lot of weight due to viral infection. We should also see second rounder Ray Rice with the bulk of the carries as Willis McGahee?s knee may not be ready. I doubt this was the plan the team had in June but as we know surprises happen.
The Bengals had their own struggles in 2007, finishing a disappointing 7-9 as their trademark offense started to sputter. Then of course there were the off-season antics of Chad Ocho Cinco. I guess I should get used to writing it, since it is now official. Add the Chris Henry situation and his apparent re-signing after the coach publicly said he wasn?t interested. Marvin Lewis has no doubt been pulling out what little hair he has left.
The other change to the Bengal offense is their running back as Chris Perry who takes over for the recently released Rudi Johnson. This is one area in which they hope to improve to get points back up on the board.
The Bengals have won the last 6 out of 7 games that the two teams have played and while I?m not that confident in how many wins the Ravens will garner this year I still think they can get this one. The front seven must get in Carson Palmer?s face or he will pick on a depleted secondary, as Edward Reed is not one hundred percent. The Bengals through the air can still be dangerous. The Baltimore offense needs to protect the ball and Flacco and make enough plays to keep things close. I like their chances in a close one.
Ravens 17 Bengals 14