3 Things To Watch - Baltimore Ravens, Week 2

With the forecast calling for a clear skies and the temperature in the mid-70s, conditions couldn't be better for the Bengals' home opener.

Fresh off a thrilling 34-23 road win at Indianapolis, the Bengals look to improve to 2-0 when they host the Baltimore Ravens to open the Thursday Night Football slate. 

Fans can purchase tickets to the opener by calling the Bengals Ticket Hotline at (513) 621-8383, online at Bengals.com or by visiting the Paul Brown Stadium ticket office. Fans can call the Bengals Ticket Hotline or chat with a ticket representative online if they have any questions.

Here is what to watch for in the Bengals' home opener.

1. Ball Security – When it comes to the success of the Baltimore defense, turnovers are key. The Ravens are 77-5 since 2000 when the turnover ratio is plus-2 or better. The Ravens tallied the NFL's No. 1 turnover differential (+17) in 2017 and also registered the NFL's most takeaways (34).

When the Ravens shutout the Bengals 20-0 in last year's home opener, Baltimore forced five Andy Dalton turnovers (four interceptions, one fumble). It was a less than stellar start for Dalton and the Bengals that season.

Fast forward to 2018 and one of the more interesting sub-plots will be how offensive coordinator Bill Lazor scripts his looks early in the game, and how aggressive those scripted plays will be. That could mean something as simple as a deep shot to John Ross on the first series, or something as complex as unleashing Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd in space at the same time.

2. Third Down Efficiency – One of the biggest keys to winning in the NFL is converting on third down on offense and getting off the field on third downs on defense. This isn't an overly amazing take as the best teams in the NFL typically do a good job of extending drives on third down.

The Bengals converted 50 percent of their third downs against the Colts (4 of 8), well above the league-average of 38 percent. In fact, Mixon's go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter came on a third and one.

The Ravens in their opener against Buffalo had success on both sides of the ball. Baltimore was 6 of 14 on third down (42 percent), including a touchdown as Joe Flacco connected with John Brown. The Ravens defense held Buffalo to an abysmal 13 percent third down efficiency (2 of 15) with both conversions coming in the last 23 minutes of the game.

3. Ground and Pound – For the running game to be successful, it takes all 11 on offense to make it work. Getting players into the right checks, the guys up front doing their jobs, the running backs hitting the right hole, breaking tackles and the guys on the outside blocking.

After a lackluster preseason rushing the football, there were positive signs in the ground game. Mixon carried 17 times for 95 yards and had a rushing touchdown. However, the Bengals only had three other rushing attempts: Giovani Bernard had just one rush for minus-2 yards and the only other ball carrier was Andy Dalton, who finished with two carries for eight yards.

Last year the Ravens ranked 15th in rushing defense allowing 111.2 yards per game. In last year's home opener, Cincinnati had 77 yards rushing in the loss, compared to 146 yards on the ground in the regular season finale, a Bengals win.

Running against the Ravens is never easy, especially with one of the top defensive linemen in the game, Brandon Williams.

One note from the Ravens side, running back Kenneth Dixon injured his knee late in the fourth quarter against the Bills and was placed on injured reserve. Dixon had 44 yards and a touchdown against the Bills before exiting.

GAME INFORMATION

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The Bengals kick off the Thursday Night Football schedule in Week 2 with a nationally televised game on NFL Network. The 8:20 p.m. game will air in Cincinnati on Local 12 and be called by Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, sideline reporters Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink and FOX NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira.

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations, 700WLW, ESPN 1530 and 102.7 WEBN. Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

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