The changes of last season's matchup between Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals took on many different forms in the kaleidoscope for week 17 opportunities.
Annals of NFL history as the game as officially wiped out Buffalo Bill's 18-year post-season crash. A game that percolated inklings by coach John Harbaugh's shooting of Rav's ownership after another postseason never again. A game that may have retained the Marvin Lewis time in Cincy. A game that offered one of 2017's most exciting finishes while it was an opportunity for Ravens revenge 2018.
For a matchup, much tasted by the latest story, it's not amazing with Potential big consequences. As much as a week 2 contest can determine, it can reveal a lot about potential playoff hunting courses, as both clubs try to claim the early high ground in AFC North. Joe Flacco and the underrated Ravens receive corps bothered bills in the week 1
Here are five things to watch during Thursday's game between Ravens and Bengals, which will be broadcast exclusively on the NFL Network:
1. Is Ravens wide receiver for real?
It's hard to underestimate how well Baltimore wideouts played last week. Granted, Buffalo Secondary looked a little in the humid conditions, but offseason's acquisition of Willie Snead, John Brown and Michael Crabtree made Joe Flacco look a lot elite. The trio collected 10 passes, with Snead snagging 49 yards and a touchdown of four catches and Brown tallying 44 yards and a TD on three catches.
One big reason for their success? Separation. They tumbled over the league average of 2.76 meter recipient separation in week 1, with Brown (4.72), Crabtree (3,44) and Snead (3.29) using their fast skill mode for maximum efficiency. Outside the figures, Flacco simply saw comfort and rhythm with its wideouts – a talking point for Ravens coaches and teammates during training camps and preseason.
Will they cause chaos for a Bengal secondary who gave up 305 passenger yards to a very one-dimensional Colts break last week? Whatever happens, it's hard to get this device regressing something close to the 29th ranked crime like hobbled Baltimore last year. Time will tell you if outgoing boss Ozzie Newsome has finally found a group of recipients who can complement the range of Flaccos talents – and a strong performance Thursday will put the rest of the AFC on red alert.
2nd Is Joe Mixon a prize back in production?
Grandiose predictions about Joe Mixon's sophomore season are about as common as Jalen Ramsey's hot take, but the Mixon forecasts are likely to be right. Mixon looked impressive against Colts, rushed for 95 meters and a touchdown of 17 berries while capturing five passes for 54 meters.
The Bengals really need someone to balance offensive attack and they did not use a second round at Mixon to see him copy his rookie number. The last time Bengals had a rushing game that caused fear in defensive coordinators' hearts, quarterback Andy Dalton had the best year of his career – 2015, when Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard collectively hit 1 524 meters.
Still, let's call it obvious to wait for our inner Lloyd Bentsen to recognize Colt's defense, can not really be compared to Rav's defense. If Mixon has a strong game against Terrell Suggs and the rest of his happy troupe of quarterback crushers, it will go far beyond him to run back King of the Division until Leon Bell returns from exile. We may get a more definite answer on Thursday if Mixon deserves to make comparisons with Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley or if he is just above average in Dalton's led crime.
3rd Will Ravens front edge seven repeat dominant ways?
The crazy old diamond, Ravens Pass, made my flesh out Buffalo's inexperienced quarterbacks and a lot of experienced running back in week 1. It was an all-round strong performance for a defensive unit that dropped a little – especially towards the run-2017.
The D line performed admirably against the bills, thanks to Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce who closed inside. Brent Urban was a constant presence outside the edge and line-back Terrell Suggs, CJ Mosley and Za & Darius Smith pressed quarterbacks and drove back all afternoon.
Is there a defense that took six sacks and two cuts against the bills make an encore against the Bengals? Cincinnati's offensive line should give a tough challenge, but it's difficult to imagine the Raven's front seven emptied less than a week after their dominant display.
4th Who wins QB duel: Joe Flacco or Andy Dalton?
The abundant game of the ravine is promising, but Dalton still has a better chance of holding the scoreboard busy. Bengals star wideout A.J. Green will find it easier to exploit the weakest part of Rav's defense when Jimmy Smith does not play because of the suspension. Dalton will also have reliable goals in Mixon and tight than Tyler Eifert.
Outside of his top recipients, Flacco will not benefit from beginner Hayden Hurst, who is still out of foot injury.
The real game card is John Ross. The anticipated emergence of the former first round pick seems like an infinite story, a legend born from a combined record in combination with a wish to see a new NFL star appearing. Bengal sophomore showed blink of his game-disappearing potential in the offense, but will we see it on Thursday?
5th Can Alex Collins spearhead attack?
The Ravens got a significant blow to their rushing game last week when Kenneth Dixon suffered from knee injury. With Dixon stuck on injured reserves and out to at least midseason, Alex Collins has to prove he can lead Baltimore's rushing attack.
Collins has been here before. Dixon missed the entire season due to injury and suspensions, which allowed Collins to churn out 973 meters and six touchdowns. While Collins would probably share with Dixon and Javorius Allen this season, it appears that Harbaugh will return Collins 2017 roll for another season.
The third year old pistol from Arkansas said before the season that he wanted to hurry more than 1000 meters. He gets his first real chance to start that trip Thursday.