Why the Bengals will beat the Ravens

Outside of their last-second win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Ravens have been downright terrible on the road this season. The Titans in Week 2? Horrible 26-13 loss. An awful Jaguars team on national television in Week 7? A pitiful 12-7 loss. A 2-6 Seattle team out in the Pacific Northwest? A 22-17 loss. Week 15 out in San Diego? That one was over by halftime.

This is a bad road team. A horrible one, really. So, why, Adam — when they’ve had that carrot of a home playoff game dangling in front of them all season — am I supposed to believe the Ravens are going to be able to win their biggest road game of the year? They won’t.

And that’s not just because Joe Flacco looks like a confused boy when playing in games outside of Baltimore. It’s because this Bengals team has come too far this season to let this opportunity slip past them.

I’ll be honest, Adam, I thought Cincinnati was done heading into last week. Going up against an Arizona team that had won six of seven games, I thought the Bengals would be overmatched and outclassed. And when they came to the very brink of surrendering a 23-point lead at home in the fourth quarter, the defense came up huge. They showed fight; they showed heart. They showed they belonged.

I’ve been doubting this young and anonymous Bengals squad all season. Before the season started, I said they’d go 1-15 with Andy Dalton under center. When they blasted out of the gates with a 6-2 record, I said they’d blow it and finish below .500. The past two weeks, I’ve picked against them. Each and every time, they’ve proved me wrong.

I can’t help but love this squad. Dalton’s a Pro Bowl quarterback in every sense of the label, and A.J. Green’s a bona fide No. 1 receiver. The first-round stud leads NFL rookies in catches (63) and needs just five grabs Sunday to surpass Cris Collinsworth (67 rec. in ’81) for the club rookie record. Green’s 1,031 receiving yards are the most by a rookie in team history.

Dalton and Green are the first rookie duo in NFL history with more than 3,000 passing yards and more than 1,000 receiving yards. And yet, it’s not a two-man show. Jermaine Gresham was huge last week and has gotten better over the course of the season, the running game is clicking behind one of the league’s most under-appreciated lines, and Andrew Hawkins and Ryan Whalen are enticing safety valve wideouts.

And then there’s that D. Yeah, they suffered big blows in losing Carlos Dunlap and Leon Hall. But they’ve recovered and had a pair of impressive outings the past two weeks.

The talking heads I’m watching in the media this week seem to assume the Ravens will suddenly pull it together and win this one because they “have” to. They’ve “had” to win all those four road losses, too, and that didn’t “will” them to victory in those cases.

This Bengals team may be young and they may not have the big-game experience that the Ravens have under their collective belts.

But that’s OK. Maybe that’s a good thing.

All that road experience hasn’t exactly helped the Ravens this year, has it?

Adam, I doubted the Bengals when they hired Jay Gruden, I doubted the Bengals when they failed to replace their two veteran diva wideouts from a year ago, and I doubted them when they dared to start the 2011 season with two rookies as their premier offensive players.

I’ve doubted them all year long.

I’m done doubting the Bengals. "Who dey? Who dey? Who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals?"

Not the Ravens. Not this week.