By Stephen Stone (@SrStoneSports)
Cold Hard Football Facts' AFC North Sniper
See, I told you it would be a week of mismatches. Perhaps I should have been more clear as to who would blow out what team and how big the blowouts would be, but I was correct in theory.
The Ravens showed why they can, when at home, take care of business against sub-par teams. Joe Flacco has shown flashes of brilliance this season, even if his last good game was a month and-a-half ago. I didn’t expect the discrepancy to be this high, but that’s sort of what the Raiders do - when things go bad, they go really bad. The Ravens were just able to capitalize on a better team.
But the Bengals?
Man, I don’t know anyone who saw that coming. The Giants were in prime position to get back into the winner’s circle and Cincinnati hasn’t won since September(!) I saw this as one of those games where the Giants destroy a team on the road.
I suppose, the only people who might have expected this result are the ones that follow history.
Keeping that in mind, here are five things to consider from this Sunday in the AFC North.
1. The Giants have never won in Cincinnati. (Bengals 31 Giants 13)
The G-Men in the Eli/Coughlin era have typically been stronger on the road than at home. Usually, when the Giants stumble against an inferior opponent its in front of their home crowd. That’s not the case against the Bengals.
You can chalk up the loss to Eli Manning’s slump. Ever since his last-second heroics against the Redskins on October 21, Manning has put up quarterback ratings of 58.4, 41.1 and 56.0 in three consecutive weeks. You can also chalk it up to ineffective play from Ahmad Bradshaw and Victor Cruz - supposed leaders of this offense. But maybe, today’s loss is all about history. Today was the ninth all-time meeting between these two teams. The Giants are 3-6 overall with all three wins coming in Giants Stadium and all six losses coming in Southwestern Ohio.
2. AJ Green caught a touchdown in his eighth consecutive game.
I’ve been saying all season long that Green is the best wide receiver in the NFL. Through nine games, he continues to accentuate that statement. The dynamic wideout is only five games away from tying the legendary Jerry Rice’s consecutive touchdown catch record.
Green was assisted by Andy Dalton’s monster day. The second-year quarterback completed 70 percent of his throws, averaged 6.6 yards per attempt and threw four touchdown passes. Much has been made of Dalton’s sophomore slump but today he showed why he’s still one of the better young signal callers in the league. As long as he and Green remain together, there will be excitement in Cincinnati.
3. Not every Raven scored on Sunday, but it sure felt like it. (Ravens 55 Raiders 20)
Six members of the Baltimore offense found the end zone. Throw in a handful of field goals and a boatload of extra points from Justin Tucker and you have seven scoring Ravens this week. Flacco, who played his best game in quite some time, led the way with three touchdown passes and a rushing score.
But the Baltimore quarterback was only a part of the scoring story. Ray Rice found paydirt because that’s what Ray Rice does. Even when the game was out of hand, Sam Koch scored in reserve duty and Jacoby Jones returned a kickoff 105 yards for the icing on-the-cake touchdown that brought the score to 55-20.
Oakland showed early on they would be no match for their superior opponents as Baltimore surged to a 20-3 lead in the second quarter. The Raiders never recovered and the Ravens poured it on throughout the second half. Baltimore fans have to be happy about finally seeing the team they know and love again.
4. Joe Flacco slowly climbed back into the MVP race.
The Ravens, despite winning have not looked good in recent weeks. Flacco, particularly on the road, has looked atrocious at times. The heavy MVP candidate in September became an offensive liability in October. But, for at least one week, Flacco returned to his award-winning form.
Of course, it’s important remain perspective. The Raiders defense ranks 21st in Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt, 28th in Defensive Real Quarterback Rating and 25th in Defensive Passer Rating. It’s not like Flacco and crew were going against the 1985 Bears. But, four overall touchdowns to complement 341 passing yards is spectacular, regardless of the opposition.
5. Power Rankings
1. Baltimore Ravens (7-2) I promised myself I wouldn’t get too excited with their blowout victory over Oakland, but that was before the game started. I’m super impressed with how good they looked.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) They clearly still have to play tomorrow night and they probably are the best team in the division, but I’m giving credit where credit is due for one week. Next Sunday night will tell us a lot more about these teams.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (4-5) I don’t know how many games they’ll end up winning, but you have to like what they were able to do against the Giants.
4. Cleveland Browns (2-7) Browns fans hope they were able to work on the turnover problem during the bye week.