Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Watch Live Stream Online for Free; Preview
Ray Rice and the Baltimore Ravens open their season Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo: REUTERS)
Two division rivals with high playoff expectations face off Monday night as the Baltimore Ravens take on the Cincinnati Bengals at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN, and you can also watch a live stream online for free here or here.
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Baltimore won the AFC North last season and ended up the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. In the conference title game, the Ravens flustered Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, holding him to just 234 yards and two interceptions.
But, as was often the case with the Ravens, the offense let the squad down. Wideout Lee Evans dropped a pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter that would have given Baltimore the lead. Kicker Billy Cundiff then missed a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds that likely would have sent the game to overtime.
Instead, New England went on to the Super Bowl, while the Ravens took the long drive home.
Baltimore is doing all it can to move on from that low point in team history. The Ravens jettisoned Cundiff in favor of rookie Justin Tucker, even though the veteran hit nearly 90 percent of his field goals just two years ago. Evans is also gone and is now looking for work after being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars in August.
The Ravens still have many of their key players from last season and are looking to make another run in 2012. Ed Reed and Ray Lewis remain old stalwarts on the defense, while Haloti Ngata will plug gaps in the middle of the line. However, the team will be without star linebacker Terrell Suggs, who tore his Achilles' tendon in the offseason and is currently on the physically unable to perform list. He will miss at least the first six games.
Baltimore's offense should improve this season as it adds more no-huddle. Running back Ray Rice also returns after three straight 1,200-yard seasons.
The Bengals, meanwhile, are also trying to erase the memory of a painful playoff loss last season. Cincinnati lost in the first round to a Houston Texans team in that was down to its third-string quarterback.
Their biggest changes in the offseason came on offense. Tailback Cedric Benson signed with the Green Bay Packers after tallying over 1,000 yards on the ground in each of the last three seasons.
In his place, the team signed former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who rushed for 667 yards in 2011 as a member of the New England Patriots. The back known as the Law Firm shared the load with Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead in 2011 but is expected to be more of a feature back in Cincy.
Also gone is former No. 2 wideout Jerome Simpson, who will be replaced by another former Patriot, Brandon Tate. Tate served as the Bengals' main kick returner last season but had zero catches on offense.
On defense, the Bengals' main goal on Monday will be to shut down Rice. Last year, the unit allowed nearly 300 yards to Rice in two games.
Overal,l the Cincinnati defense was solid last season, finishing in the top 10 in the league in both yards allowed and points allowed. But with heavy running teams like Baltimore and Houston in the conference, Cincy will need to tighten up in this area if it hopes to improve its postseason success.