CINCINNATI -- The start of the 2015 season is still five months away, but that doesn't mean we can't begin breaking down the Cincinnati Bengals' schedule.
The NFL's official schedule hasn't been released yet, so we won't know the Bengals' official kickoff times and dates until sometime later this month. But we do know who they will be playing and where.
We've been examining each of those opponents in this really early series. Up next, the Baltimore Ravens:
2014 record: 10-6
2014 finish: Reached the playoffs as a wild card, lost in the divisional round to New England; finished third in the AFC North
Series history: Bengals trail, 20-18
Last time vs. Bengals: Cincinnati won 27-24 at Paul Brown Stadium on Oct. 26, 2014.
Really early scouting report: Baltimore took the Cincinnati approach to free agency this offseason, barely signing any free agents other than their own. They also did something the Bengals don't normally do: pulled off a massive trade at the start of free agency. In exchange for Ngata, who was shipped to Detroit, the Ravens received a pair of mid-round draft picks to bring their total to 10 selections this year. When it comes to building for the future, the Ravens with all those draft picks definitely came out winners this offseason.
But when you take into account the players they lost in recent weeks, particularly at receiver, there are reasons to question right now whether the Ravens have another playoff run in them in 2015.
Jones and Torrey Smith were two of their top playmakers on offense and special teams. Daniels gave them a good occasional pass-catcher and run-blocker at tight end, even while dealing with a knee issue. Of course, the soon-to-be 36-year-old Steve Smith will be back, but the Ravens have holes that still need to be filled, regardless.
Expect Baltimore in the meetings this year with Cincinnati to stick with some of what made it successful in last year's series meeting at Paul Brown Stadium. Perhaps one pass interference call away from potentially winning that game, the Ravens put themselves in position to snatch victory from the Bengals due to their running game. Justin Forsett, who came into his own last season and earned a new contract this offseason, combined with Lorenzo Taliaferro to rush for 95 yards in the game. Quarterback Joe Flacco only had 187 passing yards.
To stop Baltimore this year, the Bengals have to limit the running backs and pressure Flacco even more than they did in the two wins last season. Offensively, the Bengals would be best served continuing to exploit passing lanes like they did in those two wins. A.J. Green caught six passes for 131 yards and a key 77-yard late touchdown in the opener. In the second meeting, Mohamed Sanu caught five passes for 125 yards, including a key 53-yard reception on the final scoring drive.