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5 reasons to watch the Bengals take on the Ravens on ‘Thursday Night Football’

These teams’ 2017 seasons ended together with the Bengals spoiling things for the Ravens. They’ll pick up where they left off on ‘Thursday Night Football.’

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The casual NFL fan probably doesn’t know Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

He hasn’t done much of note since entering the NFL as a second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. But you know who surely knows about Tyler Boyd? Ravens fans.

Last season, the Ravens were leading a Week 17 matchup with the Bengals, 27-24, with 58 seconds remaining and a trip to the playoffs on the line. Then, Andy Dalton threw a 49-yard touchdown to Boyd on fourth-and-12 and Ravens fans’ jaws dropped. Their season was over thanks to the Dalton-Boyd combination. Boyd totaled just 22 catches for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns last season, so a pretty sizable chunk of his stat line came just from that one catch.

So what did the Ravens do in response? They went out and hired Bengals wide receiver coach James Urban to be their quarterbacks coach, for starters. And then spent all offseason thinking about how to get back at the Bengals.

”We still got that bitter taste in our mouths,” Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr said this week.

Though, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is trying to leave the past in the past. “You always want to redeem yourself as best as you can, certainly, but it’s not going to factor into who wins the game,” he said on Monday.

These two AFC North foes face off tonight on Thursday Night Football in Cincinnati, and there are quite a few reasons to watch.

1. A.J. Green always dominates against the Ravens and now the Bengals have John Ross on-the-field, too.

In 10 career games against the Ravens, Green has 48 catches for 817 yards and six touchdowns. Back in 2015, Harbaugh had this to say after a 10-catch, 227 yard, two touchdown game for Green against Baltimore.

”One of these days, we’ll figure out how to cover A.J. Green. It’d be nice if we did it one time before he retires.”

Hiring away his former coach is probably a good way to start doing just that. Green and Ross (who both had touchdowns in Week 1) will be looking to impress against a tough Ravens defense tonight.

2. Lamar Jackson isn’t the Ravens’ starting quarterback, but expect him to still play.

The Ravens weren’t kidding when they said they’d figure out a way for both Joe Flacco and Jackson to see the field. The first-round rookie threw four passes and had seven rushing attempts in Week 1. The Bengals need to be prepared to defend against him, and audiences should be excited to watch him play.

Meanwhile, Flacco had a, dare I say, elite, Week 1 performance, going 25 of 34 for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Having the rookie breathing down his neck may be good thing for Flacco.

3. First place (for now) in the AFC North is on the line.

Because the Steelers tied the Browns last Sunday while both the Ravens and Bengals won, the winner of this game will take hold of first place in the AFC North for at least one week. An early lead in the division race is never a bad thing.

4. The Ravens defense is really good, but will it be as good when it’s not facing the Bills?

The Ravens put up 47 points against the Bills last week. They also limited Buffalo to just three points. Can they do it again against the Bengals in Cincinnati’s home opener? The Bengals are also bringing back their 1988 AFC Championship team for a 30-year anniversary celebration, so the Ravens will be looking to spoil that fun. Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith is suspended for this game, as is Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict. So both teams will be missing key defensive players.

5. The Bengals are horrible in primetime and embarrassed themselves extraordinarily on Thursday Night Football in Week 2 last year.

Cincinnati is 5-14 in primetime during the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green era (dating back to 2011). The Bengals only have one primetime game on their schedule this year and it’s tonight’s matchup with the Ravens. That’s good news for the Bengals who had a 65-45-2 record overall from 2011-2017.

Last year, the Bengals failed to score a point in their season opener against the Ravens and then went on to not score a touchdown in Week 2 against the Texans, which came in the same week, same location and same TV broadcast as tonight’s game.

Last week, the Bengals put up 34 points against the Colts, including three offensive touchdowns. If they can have that much offensive firepower this week against a good Ravens defense, it will go a long way toward getting the primetime monkey off their backs.

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