(Photo credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK)
Two AFC North rivals who had distinctly different opening weeks to the NFL season will meet on Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens face the host Cincinnati Bengals.
The Ravens (1-0) beat the visiting Texans 25-9 in their home opener, sacking C.J. Stroud five times and holding Houston to just 268 yards of total offense.
Linebacker Roquan Smith led Baltimore with a game-high 16 tackles, including a sack, while fellow linebacker Patrick Queen recorded 11 tackles and a sack.
On offense, the Ravens scored three rushing touchdowns, two from Justice Hill -- brother of Cincinnati safety Dax Hill -- and one from J.K. Dobbins. However, the strong performance on the ground came at a cost, as Dobbins tore his Achilles and is out for the season.
Ravens rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers caught nine passes for 78 yards in his NFL debut.
"There's just a myriad of things that go into playing a football game," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "(Whether) that's operating offensively, or defensively and special teams, it's a lot of moving parts. We have to get the parts moving more in sync, and it's early in the season. It's not unexpected, but I promise you, we want to be chasing perfection."
The Bengals (0-1) will face a second AFC North rival in as many weeks. Cincinnati is looking to bounce back from a 24-3 loss to the host Cleveland Browns in Week 1.
Facing Myles Garrett and an intense Browns pass rush in the rain, Joe Burrow and the Bengals could never get the offense in gear, recording just 142 yards of total offense.
Burrow completed 14 of 31 passes for just 82 yards and was held to a 52.2 passer rating.
"Nobody is panicking in here," Burrow said. "Week 1 doesn't define anybody's season. Obviously, (we were) not very good out there. Anybody that watched saw that. But we've been in this spot before, we've come back stronger and had a great year, so that's what we're going to do."
The Bengals are trying to avoid a repeat of last year's 0-2 start before winning 12 of their final 14 games to end the regular season and capture their second straight AFC North title. The Bengals also started 0-3 in the division before turning things around.
There were bright spots for Cincinnati on defense last Sunday, as linebacker Germaine Pratt had 11 tackles, including a 7-yard sack, and forced a fumble in the opening quarter.
That fumble was recovered by cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, who played 43 snaps in his first game since a season-ending ACL tear on Oct. 31, 2022, that he sustained on the same Cleveland field.
Second-year safety Dax Hill picked off Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson in the third quarter for his first career interception.
"I thought the defense as a whole certainly gave us enough," Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. "We didn't do anything to take the pressure off them. They really held up in some bad field position situations. They continued to make stop after stop, gave up three points there for a long time."
The Bengals are hoping to get edge rusher Joseph Ossai back from a right ankle sprain suffered in the final preseason game, while Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (quad) and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (foot) missed the Week 1 win.
Ossai was limited in practice on Wednesday, as was linebacker Logan Wilson (ankle). Defensive end Cam Sample was a non-participant.
Humphrey did not participate in Wednesday's practice, while Andrews was limited. Center Tyler Linderbaum (ankle), tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) and safety Marcus Williams (pectoral) were also out.
--Field Level Media