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Week 1: Bengals-Ravens matchup

The SportsXchange

Cincinnati at Baltimore

Monday, 7:00 p.m. ET, at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore - TV: ESPN

*TV announcers: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters

*Keys to the game: How legitimate are concerns that Cincinnati struggled to run the ball during the preseason and is already down two starters on the offensive line? Baltimore led the AFC in run defense last season and will answer those questions quickly. Bengals QB Andy Dalton has poise and he has a field-stretching threat in WR A.J. Green, but he also needs BenJarvus Green-Ellis setting the table on the ground. The saving grace could be that Baltimore's pass rush isn't as dynamic minus injured OLB Terrell Suggs. The Ravens finished the preseason feeling good about their offensive line and the combination of RB Ray Rice backed up by rookie Bernard Pearce. QB Joe Flacco spent the exhibition slate working in more no-huddle formations to improve tempo and timing, and has deep threats in Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones to attack Cincinnati's thin secondary.

*Matchup to watch - Bengals interior offensive line vs. Ravens NT Terrence Cody: Second-year guard Clint Boling was thrust into the lineup on the left side when Travelle Wharton was lost for the season, the Bengals scrambled to add center Jeff Faine after Kyle Cook was injured and right guard Kevin Zeitler is a rookie. There has been little time to build chemistry and the 350-pound Cody is a massive load in the middle who could blow up Cincinnati's ground game between the tackles.

*Player spotlight - Bengals WR Andrew Hawkins: While the Bengals wait for a second receiver to emerge on the outside, Hawkins solidified the slot position and will see significant playing time, especially with Cincinnati's receivers interchangeable beyond Green.

*Fast facts: The Bengals had 11 games decided by eight points or less in 2011. ... Ravens coach John Harbaugh is 4-0 in season openers.


The Bengals have an encouraging blend of youth and talent. They also have serious issues along the offensive line, and Baltimore still brings a vaunted defense that will wreak havoc when able to attack in constant third-and-longs situations.

*Our pick: Ravens 23-16

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