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Harbaugh raves about Bengals talent; Hill to play


 Jeremy Hill will be back out there Sunday.

Of course, coaches are supposed to fawn over the next opponent. But head John Harbaugh of the 0-2 Ravens, hosting the 2-0 Bengals Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Baltimore's home opener, poured it on pretty thick in his Monday news conference.

In a question about the Bengals wide receivers, Harbaugh raved about the talent, and it was unclear if he was talking about just the receivers or about the entire team as the league's most talented. He certainly has high regard for an offense that hasn't allowed a sack or interception, and is rated seventh in the NFL.

"I do believe it is the most talented team in the league," Harbaugh said. "I've seen that over the years. We have great respect for them, for their coaches [and] the way they play. Obviously, it starts with A.J. Green, but the whole cast of characters there on offense is very talented and gifted – tight ends, running backs, quarterback. The whole group is very good, and they have a heck of an offensive line. I'd say they're the complete package, talent-wise."

And the Ravens will see one of those talented players. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson indicated Monday that running back Jeremy Hill is going to be back on the field Sunday despite his two fumbles against the Chargers.

"I'll put him back in. It's a new game," Jackson said. "That's over with. That's over and done with. We're 2-0, so we're moving on. We're moving on to the next game."

After going 1-5 against the Ravens the Bengals have won three straight over Baltimore for the fourth time in head coach Marvin Lewis' coaching tenure. But they're trying to win four straight against the Ravens for the first time and win back-to-back games at M&T Bank Stadium for the first time in 10 years.

Doubling the challenge for the Bengals is Baltimore's home-field advantage, which will really be amped up because of their 0-2 record. With a .775 winning percentage the Ravens have the best home record in the last decade except for the Patriots at .838.

But the Bengals have a few trends headed their way as well. Since 2011 the Bengals have the third best road record in the NFL at 20-13, tied with the Packers and behind the 49ers (21-12) and the Broncos and Patriots (22-11).

Plus, since 2012 the Bengals are tied with Denver for the NFL's second best September record at 10-3, a game behind Arizona.

And Harbaugh isn't totally snowing his team. There are numbers backing it up. The Bengals' plus-25 scoring differential is second only to Arizona in the NFL. And only the Bengals, Bears, and Cowboys are in the top ten for both offense and defense at sixth on defense and seventh on offense. How much Hill plays after Giovani Bernard rushed for 123 yards on 20 carries in Sunday's 24-19 victory over San Diego is anyone's guess. Hill went to the bench with 7:44 left in the third quarter after his second fumble. As head coach Marvin Lewis said Monday, that's up to the game.

Cincinnati Bengals host the San Diego Chargers in week 2 of the regular season.

"Neither of the guys knows how the game will unfold, so they have to be ready all the time," Lewis said. "It's just like receivers; you can't predict how it's going go for you. You have to go run your route, get yourself open. You have to expect the football at all times. Same thing for guys on defense, you have to go through your role and do your job at all times."

Last year when the Bengals opened the season in Baltimore, they chose to use the rookie Hill sparingly in such a hostile environment in his first game and gave it to him just four times for 19 yards. But it sounds like they're going to put him back out there. Lewis doesn't think Hill has a mental obstacle about fumbling, which he has done seven times in his 18 NFL games.

  "If they're a weak personality, but I don't think Jeremy is a weak personality," Lewis said.

Jackson isn't sure what is ailing his big back who led the NFL in rushing last season over the second half of the season.

"I've coached that position, I know that position pretty well," said Jackson, who coached the Bengals backs in 2013. "I don't know if he's trying too hard or I don't know what it is. But we'll figure it out for him, because we need him to be successful. He'll go back out there and start swinging again. I do know that much. We did what we thought was best for the football team the other day."

But Jackson wouldn't say how long the leash is.

"I'll be more lenient with other guys. I don't want anybody to hold me to the standard, 'OK, well he just turned it over. You better get him out,'" Jackson said. "There's a process to it, and I know what it looks like and what it feels like and Coach Lewis does too. When we make that decision we make it and move on."

For the second time in three weeks the Bengals are serving as the opponent for a home opener. And for the second time in three weeks it is against another team that Jackson coached. Before Jackson went to Oakland, he was the Ravens quarterbacks coach from 2008-2009.

"Everybody needs to have their butt busted every now and then. It brings you back to your knees and it will humble you real quickly," Jackson said of Hill. "I just think it's attention to detail. I just think it's focus. I think you do it all the time. It's something sometimes people can get away from. You forget what got you to where you are. A reminder is good. It was a reminder yesterday how important it is to take care of the ball. "

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