For whatever reason, and no one from the Bengals wants to get into it, quarterback Joe Flacco has struggled against Cincinnati more than he has any other team in the AFC North. Especially defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who would rather talk about summer rounds of golf with Flacco.
"Pretty nice guy," Guenther said this week. "We don't talk about football when we're out there."
It turns out that Flacco has a house in the same Atlantic City beach community where Guenther vacations and the two have played golf a few times the last couple of summers at Blue Heron Pines, the course owned by former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski.
"There are a lot of NFL players and coaches down there and we play golf a couple of times a week," Guenther said. "Jaws. Rich Gannon, a lot of times. I maybe played with (Flacco) three times last year."
They didn't talk about last season, when Flacco threw just one touchdown and had three interceptions while the Bengals held the Ravens' Mad Bomber to 5.5 yards per pass, far below his 7.0 career mark, in Guenther's first season as coordinator.
"I'll give him a little jab once in a while and he'll give me one, too," said Gunther of the banter. "You know, just what you say out on the golf course."
For most of his 14 games against the Bengals, Flacco probably would have preferred the golf course. He's got a 72-42 career record, but he's 7-7 against the Bengals. He's got a 69.6 passer rating against them, fashioned on 13 TD passes and 18 interceptions. Compare that to his numbers against the other two teams in the AFC North, 35 TDs and 13 interceptions against Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
Guenther has had a hand in all those games, which began in Flacco's debut in the 2008 opener in Baltimore, also the first game of Mike Zimmer's career as the Bengals defensive coordinator. Flacco got them that day in a 17-10 victory that featured the big-footed Flacco's 38-yard scramble for a TD off a broken play.
But it's been hit or miss ever since for him. The Bengals picked him off four times to win the 2010 Paul Brown Stadium opener and in 2013 when the Ravens came into PBS needing a win in the season's final game to make the playoffs, the Bengals denied them with three interceptions. In last year's opener, six years to the day of Flacco's debut, the Bengals frustrated him at the end of the first half chasing him out of the pocket and time expired as he held on to the ball to prevent the field goal try.
But the Bengals know Flacco can unleash the big bomb on them at any time, like in that opener when he shook off the gaffe and rifled his longest TD ever on third-and-14 for an 80-yarder that gave the Ravens a brief lead. As the scramble TD reflects, Flacco has found ways to stun them
"The first thing I think about them is they've got a Super Bowl-winning quarterback," said Bengals safety George Iloka. "They've got a competitive team that plays hard, especially at home. They want to establish the run and hit the big play-action."
No gimmees on this green this Sunday. Guenther says he and Flacco can't pick up anything about the other that would help them Sunday when they're calling plays against each other.
"It's all business," Guenther said.
MONROE, CANTY OUT: The Ravens ruled out two starters Friday, left tackle Eugene Monroe and defensive end Chris Canty. That means the undrafted James Hurst, a second-year player, is expected to start for Monroe in what would be his seventh NFL start. For the Bengals, the only player not expected to go is backup defensive tackle Pat Sims, meaning Brandon Thompson plays in his first game this season.