There is a lot of uncertainty in the AFC North as to who the best team is. Coming into the year, it looked like it would be the Browns slightly ahead of Baltimore. Pittsburgh at #3 with the Bengals behind them in the back. Boy, has that been wrong.
The Steelers are in last. And then the 4-3 Browns are banged up, and in third place. And then, the Bengals hold the tiebreaker over the Ravens, and sit in first.
So, who is the better team? Is it the Ravens or the Bengals?
Contrasting Styles of Offense
The Bengals offense is led by QB Joe Burrow, who is having an incredible season. Only the Bears and Packers have beaten them, and the two losses were a combined six points. They are in every game, and it looks like they have turned a corner very early on. This is a pass-first offense, with the running game doing a little work.
Ja’Marr Chase is a receiver every team would clearly like to have. He has an NFL record 754 yards receiving through the first seven games of the season. He and Burrow have had an incredible connection. Burrow has thrown for 1,956 yards and 17 TD’s, with eight picks. Mixon averages 77 rush yards a game.
As for the Ravens, it is a run-first offense. They have run for over 100 yards in 45 of their last 46 contests, a streak unlike any other. Pittsburgh still has the consecutive games in a row record, but it does not mean Baltimore is any less impressive.
Jackson has thrown for 1,943 yards and 10 TD’s, with five picks. He has a team-high 480 rushing yards and two more touchdowns. They lost opening night in OT versus the Raiders, and of course lost 41-17 to the Bengals this past Sunday.
The Ravens have 10 rushing TD’s, and like to pound the football, whereas it is a pass-first unit for Cincy.
Playing Great Football
5-2 is where the Ravens should have expected to be at this point in the season, whereas the Bengals have stunned the league with their impressive play. They are on a collision course to have their week 15 matchup determine a lot within the division. The Browns will not let themselves exit the chat early, though.
The biggest difference between Baltimore and Cincy is a certain wide receiver. As mentioned earlier, Ja’Marr Chase has been incredible. All he does is catch touchdowns and haul in the deep ones. He’s tough to bring down once he has the ball in his grasp, and all teams have struggled to contain him.
Whereas Baltimore’s top threat is Hollywood Brown, who is as likely to make a crazy catch, as he is to drop one that is right in his lap. He needs to work on coming up with it more on coming up with it more often, so he can become a better all-around guy.
Each team has won five of seven games, and look as if they will remain in the playoff conversation all year long.
Bengals D Eons Ahead
The Ravens defense has been decimated by injuries and the COVID-19 list. And yet, they managed a five-game winning streak. But, they have sloppy stretches. If not for a few missed kick, the Bengals could be 6-1. They have been in every game thanks to their D.
Whereas Baltimore looks to Marlon Humphrey, Jessie Bates dominates in the secondary for Cincy, but flies under the radar. Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard have made life a living hell for opposing QB’s. And Logan Wilson has four interceptions.
The Bengals dominated the Ravens by making their offense have to work harder for everything. And they made it look so easy.
Bengals Have Slight Edge
Yes, Lamar Jackson is an NFL MVP. But, Joe Burrow and Cincy are just a little better. The Ravens can definitely win the late-season matchup, but, for now, give the Bengals the leg up. A more complete team.
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