Every morning, Monday through Friday, blogger Matt Vensel will hook you up with reading material -- mostly on the Ravens but with some other Baltimore sports stuff, too -- to skim through as you slug down coffee and slack off at the start of your workday. That way he’ll have an excuse to do the same to start his workday, too.
It may be a little early to be scoreboard watching, but when the Ravens rolled out of their beds this morning, they were already a half-game up on the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North. If they can tame the young Cincinnati Bengals tonight at M&T Bank Stadium, they will wrap up Week 1 with a one-game cushion over the rest of their divisional foes. That’s not too shabby of a way to start the season.
Pittsburgh’s game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday night might have been the most anticipated of the weekend, with Peyton Manning making his comeback in orange, blue and white. He was impressive, and his use of the no-huddle in the second half tired out that ancient Steelers defense. Ben Roethlisberger did his usual escape-artist routine to keep the Steelers in it, but he threw a pick-six that sealed a 31-19 Broncos win.
The Browns? It wasn’t pretty, but they almost beat the Philadelphia Eagles. They picked off Michael Vick four times, returning one for a touchdown, but Vick led a late touchdown drive to seize a 17-16 win. The Browns defense, which ranked fifth in points allowed in 2011, should be solid again this season. Meanwhile, Brandon Weeden's debut was ugly. The 58-year-old rookie threw four picks and completed just 12 of his 35 attempts for 118 yards. Gross.
RUNNING IT BACK
Muhammad Ali visited the Ravens on Sunday. … Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are ready for what could be their last season together. ... This could be coach John Harbaugh’s most challenging season yet. … Mike Preston says the no-huddle is a no-brainer for the Baltimore offense. … Tonight, the Ravens will attempt to shut down Cincinnati Bengals wide-out A.J. Green, who is not worried about a sophomore slump, if there is such a thing.
RAVENS STUFF, BUT NOT FROM US
ESPN’s John Clayton will be watching these 10 things during tonight’s game. … Is Joe Flacco the next Eli Manning? … SI’s Peter King gave a history lesson on Art Modell. … Arthur Jones hopes his hard work pays off. … Paul Kruger, no stranger to adversity, is in the spotlight.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
The Bengals get a chance to prove themselves in Baltimore. … Expectations are higher for Andy Dalton this season. … Vontaze Burfict wants to be as good as or better than Ray Lewis. … Are these Bengals built to last?
SHAMELESS PLUG(S) OF THE DAY
I wrote about the Ravens’ transitioning offensive line, which is the biggest question mark on offense heading into the season.
AWAY FROM THE GRIDIRON
Nick Markakis will have surgery on his broken thumb. … The Orioles lost to the Yankees and are now a game back in the A.L. East. … Bob Costas thinks Art Modell should be in the Hall of Fame. … That local politician has backed off in his bid to silence Brendon Ayanbadejo.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Which teams or players impressed you most Sunday?