Are the Ravens ready to turn it around?
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will face another proving ground Sunday against the Ravens.
One could argue that Dalton has been the best quarterback in the AFC North this season. Better than Joe Flacco, or Ben Roethlisberger, or any of the quarterbacks the Browns have trotted under center. The Bengals (6-3) lead the division, and Dalton’s play (16 TD’s, 10 INT’s, 92.0 QB rating) is a major reason.
However, Flacco and Roethlisberger have far more big-game credibility than Dalton. Flacco led the Ravens to a Super Bowl last season, and Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings. Both have delivered in numerous clutch playoff situations.
Not Dalton. In both of his playoff appearances, the Bengals have lost, and Dalton has not thrown a touchdown pass. Then there is Dalton’s inconsistency. He was superb during a three-game stretch from Weeks 6-8, throwing 11 touchdown passes, one interception, and leading the Bengals to three straight wins. However, Dalton had another clunker against the Dolphins last week, throwing three interceptions, including a 94-yard pick six, and a game-ending sack for a safety.
So is Dalton, in his third season, really ready to lead the Bengals to a division title and a deep playoff run? Dalton hopes so, and sees parallels between his career path and Flacco’s.
“There are definitely some things that are very similar to how our careers have gone and how things have started,” said Dalton during a Wednesday conference call. “Hopefully, I can do what he did last year. It was big for him to come in with a lot of people doubting him and a lot of people saying all this stuff, and for him to go out and lead them to the Super Bowl – that was big.”
A win over the Ravens (3-5) would further diminish Baltimore’s playoff hopes, and put the Bengals in the driver’s seat for the division. However, Dalton is 0-2 at M & T Bank Stadium, and expects the Ravens to play like a desperate team.
“The way the season has gone so far, this is a big game for them,” Dalton said. “We’re expecting to get their best. This is a big game for us as well.”
It’s the kind of game where the Bengals will need Dalton at his best.