Bengals expecting more out of this season
Think the sight of James Harrison in a Bengals uniform is startling? Imagine the culture shock for Bengals fans at seeing their team atop the AFC North in numerous preseason forecasts — and in a division that has produced two Super Bowl teams in the past three seasons.
How well or poorly the Bengals do might be determined by Andy Dalton, who's filling the role once held by Joe Flacco of being a quarterback equally capable of leading his team or holding it back.
What could elevate Dalton is having talented rookie tight end Tyler Eifert in addition to ace receiver A.J. Green.
“He's picked up things pretty quickly ever since he got here,” Dalton said of Eifert. “We're expecting a lot out of him.”
Just as, for a change, Bengals fans are expecting a lot from their team.
Browns: Kicking themselves?
Every NFL rookie head coach feels a certain comfort level when he has a reliable field-goal kicker. But the Browns and new coach Rob Chudzinski are taking a gamble by going with Billy Cundiff, the league's least-accurate kicker (35 of 49, 71.4 percent) over the past two seasons, based on a minimum of 30 attempts.
Cundiff was a combined 7 of 12 with the 49ers and Redskins last season, but the Browns went with him over former Bengals kicker Shayne Graham.
“He's played (in Baltimore) and knows the division,” Chudzinski said. “He's outstanding as a kickoff guy. And he has been in the Pro Bowl. He is a resilient guy.”
So was Phil Dawson, the Browns' kicker for the previous 14 seasons. In a few weeks, they might be wishing he were back.
Ravens: The perils of a defending champion
The Ravens are starting six new players on their traditionally strong defense, and it looked like it during their 49-27 season-opening loss on Thursday in Denver.
Peyton Manning became the first NFL quarterback since 1962 to throw for seven touchdowns, and he exposed weaknesses in a defense that is playing without linebacker Ray Lewis for the first time in franchise history. The 49 points were the most against the Ravens.
For comparison's sake, the Ravens allowed only six touchdown passes in the first half of last season; they didn't allow their seventh until -Nov. 11.
According to ESPN.com, the Ravens' defense allowed 259 yards after the catch; last season, they played 10 games in which they didn't allow that many passing yards at all.