Saturday, September 22, 2018

Ravens-Bengals could be significant in AFC North

Considering what happened in the rain at Cleveland last Sunday, the rugged AFC North looks like it will be wide open.

So Thursday night's visit to Cincinnati by Baltimore takes on an extra bit of importance, even in mid-September, after the division-favorite Steelers stumbled and bumbled to a 21-21 tie against the Browns.

The Ravens were all over Buffalo from the start as Joe Flacco recaptured some of that 2012 championship form and the defense destroyed the Bills. The Bengals fell in a big hole at Indianapolis and showed far more gumption than usual by climbing out of it to win.

Two teams many projected as also-rans for 2018 delivered some impressive opening performances.

"That game is behind us," Ravens safety Tony Jefferson says. "Although it's great to have momentum, it's over with. It's a new week. This is a division opponent; they know us very well and we know them very well."

Perhaps. But these Bengals seem to have a resilience not seen often in recent seasons, though Cincinnati did show such moxie in the previous meeting with Baltimore.

The Ravens ended the season hosting the Bengals and fell 31-27 on Andy Dalton's 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd with 44 seconds left. That eliminated Baltimore from the playoffs and sent Buffalo into the postseason.

The Ravens, ranked No. 9 in the AP Pro32, and No. 16 Bengals are pick-em at Paul Brown Stadium. It's hard to fathom that Pro Picks is predicting Cincinnati will start the season 2-0. But that's where we'll go.

BENGALS, 21-20

KNOCKOUT POOL

We warned everyone last week that we aren't very saintly in these things, and New Orleans' flop proved that. We're obligated to keep trying and will go with the LA RAMS.

No. 28 Oakland (plus 6) at No. 14 Denver

Not exactly Orange Crush defense, but Broncos will put Mile High hit on Jon Gruden's Raiders.

BEST BET: BRONCOS, 23-13

No. 3 Minnesota (plus 1) at No. 6 Green Bay

No miracle finishes for A-Rod and Pack this time, though this isn't much of an ...

UPSET SPECIAL: VIKINGS, 27-20

No. 1 New England (minus 2) at No. 5 Jacksonville

AFC championship game rematch — and perhaps harbinger for January. No revenge for Jaguars.

PATRIOTS, 27-16

No. 7 Kansas City (plus 5 1-2) at No. 11 Pittsburgh

Steelers fall behind even more in AFC race and Chiefs prosper.

CHIEFS, 26-24

No. 19 Los Angeles Chargers (minus 7) at No. 32 Buffalo

Bills can't possibly be as bad as they looked in opener. Or maybe they are.

CHARGERS, 27-10

No. 31 Arizona (plus 13) at No. 4 Los Angeles Rams

Cardinals can't possibly be as bad as they looked in opener. Or maybe they are.

RAMS, 26-10

No. 30 Detroit (plus 5 1-2) at No. 23 San Francisco

Lions can't possibly ... you get it.

49ERS, 20-17

No. 18 Miami (plus 3) at No. 17 New York Jets

Battle to keep pace with Patriots in AFC East — at least through two weeks.

J-E-T-S, 23-21

No. 8 Carolina (plus 5 1-2) at No. 10 Atlanta

Red zone scares Falcons, strange occurrence for a team wearing that color.

FALCONS, 20-17

No. 2 Philadelphia (minus 3) at No. 15 Tampa Bay

If Buccaneers win this, time to re-evaluate.

EAGLES, 21-20

No. 29 Indianapolis (plus 5 1-2) at No. 12 Washington

Redskins were as pleasant a surprise as Bucs last week. Revival continues in DC.

REDSKINS, 26-19

No. 27 Cleveland (plus 8) at No. 13 New Orleans

Who thought Saints would be more embarrassed team in opener than Browns?

SAINTS, 27-15

No. 24 New York Giants (plus 3) at No. 25 Dallas

NBC and NFL love this as prime-time matchup. Hey, they both are 0-1, guys.

COWBOYS, 17-16

No. 21 Seattle (plus 3) at No. 22 Chicago, Monday night

Bears need to put Lambeau collapse behind them.

BEARS, 20-16

No. 20 Houston (no line) at No. 26 Tennessee

Tough start for banged-up Titans.

TEXANS, 23-13

___

2018 RECORD:

Last Week: Against spread (8-7-1). Straight up (10-5-1)

Season Totals: Against spread (8-7-1). Straight up: (10-5-1)

Best Bet: 1-0 against spread, 1-0 straight up

Upset special: 0-1 against spread, 0-1 straight up

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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