I wonder how many people on the street if asked which of these four teams had the best record would pick the Cincinnati Bengals from a group that included them with the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns?
The Bengals four wins top the other three AFC teams, who all have a 3-3 won/loss records.
If the Bengals have won four games one might think the team played a soft schedule. Not necessarily so, among their four wins are a road victory in Pittsburgh and an opening day triumph over the Minnesota Vikings.
In fact, now in his second year, first pick in the draft Joe Burrow looks as though a year of pro experience has elevated his quarterback play dramatically. Cincinnati had a string of losing campaigns before Burrow joined them last year, and those seasons provided high draft choices that the Bengals have utilized to acquire a quality group of players now wearing Cincinnati uniforms.
This week, the Bengals meet their division leaders, the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore won their fifth consecutive game last week with an impressive win over the Los Angeles Chargers, 34-6. This week, they need a win to stay ahead of the Bengals in the AFC North Division.
Most think they will get it, and after their dominating effort against the Chargers, Baltimore is a six point favorite this week. With a win, the Ravens will assure themselves of a two game lead in the AFC North, while a Bengals victory would create a tie between the two teams.
The Ravens current five game winning streak has not come easy.
Following an opening season loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, John Harbaugh’s first season opening defeat since 2015, Baltimore has downed the Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and Chargers. Looking at those five teams the Ravens beat, who might you think gave them the most trouble?
Turns out, two of their three most highly competitive games that required come-from-behind efforts came against their weakest opponents. The win over the Chiefs in the second week of the season was close, but against two struggling teams Baltimore required a 66-yard field goal on the game’s last play to edge the still winless Detroit Lions and two weeks ago, Baltimore fell behind the Colts in a Monday Night Football contest and required a furious rally and two point conversion to push the game to overtime.
In other words, Baltimore has had its struggles while winning five in a row. This week, they meet a Bengals team that is better than most realize and facing the Ravens who are coming off their most dominant win of the season.
What that leaves us with on Sunday is a Ravens squad looking for a sixth straight win to expand their division lead against an improved Bengals squad requiring a victory to catch the Ravens in the AFC North Division.
With all the injuries Baltimore has suffered this season, notably three of their best runningbacks, the Ravens winning streak is quite impressive … while another win here would be, according to my charts, quite unexpected.
Qoxhi Picks: Cincinnati Bengals (+6) over Baltimore Ravens