Thursday Night Football
Baltimore @ Cincinnati
Team Totals: Ravens 22, Bengals 22
Joe Mixon was the star of Cincinnati’s Week 1 win over Indianapolis, out-touching Giovani Bernard 22 to 2 and logging career highs in snap rate (79%), routes run (24), targets (7), and catches (5) with three carries inside the ten-yard line, second most in the league. The bad news is Mixon draws a stout Ravens run defense that finished last season No. 9 in DVOA before stifling LeSean McCoy (7/22/3.1/0) on Opening Day. The good news is Mixon is now handling elite RB1 usage, raising his floor and ceiling and giving him matchup-proof potential as a surefire every-week starter. … Bernard drew just one carry and one target on 21% of the Week 1 snaps and is merely Mixon’s handcuff, not a member of any committee. … Andy Dalton was decisive and efficient against the Colts, averaging 8.68 yards per attempt after posting a 6.69 YPA last year, Dalton’s worst clip since his rookie campaign in 2011. Perhaps most importantly, Dalton was hit just three times all game behind Cincinnati’s revamped offensive line. Baltimore’s defense will pose a far tougher challenge than Indianapolis did, of course, and the Ravens got off to a fast start with six sacks, two interceptions, and an anemic 98 yards allowed on 33 attempts (2.97 YPA) to Bills quarterbacks last week. Dalton’s improved supporting cast makes him a prime candidate to outscore his lowly pre-season expectations, but there are better Week 2 streamer plays.
Dalton’s Week 1 target distribution: A.J. Green 8; Mixon 7; Tyler Boyd 5; Tyler Eifert 3; John Ross 2; Gio, Tyler Kroft, and C.J. Uzomah 1. … Suspended CB Jimmy Smith’s absence theoretically improves Green’s outlook, although Ravens LCB Marlon Humphrey, RCB Brandon Carr, and slot CB Tavon Young are fresh off posting a clean sheet versus Buffalo. With and without Smith in the lineup last year, Baltimore kept Green quiet in two meetings (2/17/0, 5/74/0). He did have ten targets in both games, however, and combines a secure, high-volume role with elite talent. In last week’s win, Green scored his 38-yard TD bomb on a vertical slot route, beating two Colts defensive backs to the house. … Eifert ran only 18 pass routes on 41% of the snaps in Indianapolis and is clearly going to be used cautiously by the Bengals’ coaching staff. The oft-injured tight end is now playing on a short week. Until Eifert’s usage rises, he will be a touchdown-or-bust commodity. … Ross scored his first career touchdown on a three-yard end-zone fade against the Colts, but he was targeted only twice and played behind Boyd, who out-snapped Ross 88% to 66%. Ross should mix in sporadic big plays this season, but he is not yet a trustworthy WR3.
Joe Flacco followed up his rock-solid preseason with a high-efficiency opener, picking apart the Bills’ zone coverage with a 73.5% completion rate and throwing three touchdown passes for the first time since December of 2016. His protection was nearly flawless, allowing just three QB hits and one sack before Lamar Jackson entered for mop-up duty. Cincinnati’s pass defense showed Week 1 cracks by serving up 319 yards and two touchdowns to Andrew Luck, although Luck got nothing going downfield and benefited from 53 attempts, a number Flacco is unlikely to reach given Baltimore’s run-first ways. Flacco will have a few stream-able weeks this year, but he’s merely a QB2 in Week 2. … Alex Collins’ Week 1 usage was skewed by Baltimore’s lopsided win with late-game rest for starters and a lost fumble that briefly cost Collins second-quarter playing time. Third-stringer Kenneth Dixon wound up leading the Ravens in carries (13), only to suffer what is expected to be a multi-week knee injury. Although he is not a true bellcow back because Javorius Allen plays around half of the snaps, Collins is a safe bet to rebound for RB2-level usage. His Week 2 matchup is middling against a Bengals defense that is missing WLB Vontaze Burfict (suspension) but still held Colts backs to a 21/68/3.24/0 rushing line last week.
Flacco’s Week 1 target distribution: Allen, Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and Nick Boyle 6; John Brown and Mark Andrews 4; Maxx Williams 2; Collins and Chris Moore 1. … Baltimore’s widespread allotment of targets will hurt the reliability of their individual pass catchers. Crabtree, Snead, and Brown all hit pay dirt on Opening Day, but none cleared 50 yards. Brown did lead the team with two targets inside the ten-yard line and is the highest-ceiling WR3/flex option here. … Dating back to last season, Crabtree has finished with 60 yards or fewer in eight straight games. He’s a touchdown-or-bust play. Crabtree did hit pay dirt on a beautiful basket catch against Buffalo after starting slow with two early drops. … Flacco hit Boyle for a Week 1 touchdown, only for it to be nullified by Snead’s offensive pass interference penalty. Snead scored on the very next play, salvaging what otherwise would have been a quiet game. Snead remains a PPR-specific WR6. … The Burfict-less Bengals were rocked by Colts tight ends for a combined 12/124/1 stat line on 16 targets. Boyle ran more pass routes (22) than Andrews (13) and Williams (11) in Week 1 and offers some especially deep-league streamer appeal. Boyle also drew two red-zone targets.
Score Prediction: Bengals 20, Ravens 17