The Bengals hope to build on their strong 2011 season, and win a tough divisional game against the reigning division champion. Quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green hope to continue their success in the passing game, as both were Pro Bowlers in their rookie season. Green has been especially impressive, going for over 1,000 yards receiving last season and 7 touchdowns. The Bengals also brought in former Patriot, BenJarvus Green-Eillis to solidify their ground game after declining to resign Cedric Benson at the end of last season.
The Ravens, who eliminated the Bengals in the first round of the playoffs last year, made it all the way to the AFC Championship game, before finally falling to New England 23-20. The Ravens have been dominant in recent years, but unable to get over the hump to the Super Bowl. QB Joe Flacco would like to improve on his middle of the road performance in 2011, and would like to take the pressure off Ray Rice, who touched the ball nearly 300 times last season. The Ravens will also be without All Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs, until late October because of a torn right Achilles tendon.
The Ravens have been good against the Bengals in recent meetings, but each year they to grow older on defense. Dalton can use a dink and dunk passing game to get it over Baltimore’s aging linebackers’ heads, and slowly move the ball down the field against the Ravens. Dalton and Green were extremely effective last season, with almost no running game to speak off. With a year under their belts, and the addition of BenJavarus Green-Ellis, this Bengals offense looks scary. I like the Bengals to keep it close Monday Night, and possibly eek out a win.
The Play: Bengals +7
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The Chargers fumbled through 2011, their third consecutive year missing the postseason. Quarterback Phillip Rivers would love to forget last season, as well. It was the worst of his career. The QB threw 27 TDs to go with 20 interceptions, River’s highest interception total in his entire career. If San Diego is to go anywhere in the tough AFC West, they will need the Pro Bowl caliber Phillip Rivers back. Rivers’ favorite target, Vincent Jackson left in free agency, but he will still have Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates, one of the best tight ends in the league and a great redzone target.
The Raiders come into 2012 with a new coach and owner. Mark Davis, the son of the late Al Davis’ took control of the team after his father’s death and hired head coach, Dennis Allen. He hopes to shore up the defense, and benefit from a full season of Carson Palmer. Along with Palmer, running back, Darren McFadden is healthy and looks poised to dominate the AFC West.
This is a hard one – it means so much to both teams, and looks to be a very even matchup. The under is the most attractive play, as the Raiders are likely to give the Chargers a generous dose of McFadden and control the clock. We all know Rivers can air it out, but how will he respond without having Vincent Jackson? Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem are decent options, but not game breakers. We look for the Chargers to utilize a bit more of the ground game this year.
The Play: Under 46.5