As if yesterday’s slate of action couldn’t get any better. Tonight, ESPN will continue its relatively new tradition of airing a double-header on the first Monday night of the season. The best part about that is it will include two division rivalries.
The first game, set to kick-off at 7 p.m. eastern time, will be between the Cincinnati Bengals and my AFC representative in SB XLVII––the Baltimore Ravens. Now, it isn’t the fiercest rivalry in the AFC North, that obviously belongs to BAL/PIT, but it still always makes for a great matchup.
Second-year quarterback Andy Dalton will lead his Bengals offense, complete with new starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, into Baltimore to face Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. One of the top defenses in the game, it will be a tough matchup for the Bengals, who ranked 18th in overall offense just last season.
Some “experts” may have Cincinnati in the playoffs this season as a wild card team, but I kind of felt this team was a bit overrated last season. At 9-7 last year, there’s no way they’ll manage to get in the playoffs this season if they repeat that performance. Of course I’m only previewing tonight’s game, not how the two seasons will go for these two teams (that’s already been done).
This will be Joe Flacco’s first shot at proving he can lead this team to the big one, and I think he’ll come through against Cincinnati’s defense. Baltimore wins this one tonight, 28-17.
As for the night cap of the doubleheader, set to kick-off at approximately 10:15 p.m. eastern time, is between the Chargers (8-8 last season, just missing the playoffs) and the Raiders (also 8-8 last season). Philip Rivers is another signal caller who is trying to prove he can win the big games when it matters as he leads his Charger offense into Oakland’s black hole for primetime.
With San Diego’s unproven starting running back Ryan Mathews (broken collarbone) rule out for tonight’s game, it will be the veteran Ronnie Brown, a former Dolphin, who will get the start.
I don’t see the running game for San Diego having a huge effect on the outcome, but I believe Rivers and his arm will be enough to trump Oakland’s Carson Palmer on his own turf. San Diego wins 21-10.
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