Andy Lyons
By Ben Baskin September 14, 2018

It may only be Week 2, but one thing is clear: the AFC North is up for grabs. The Bengals won on Thursday Night Football last night, beating the Ravens 34–23 (the same score by which Cincinnati beat Indianapolis last week) and advancing to 2–0, alone atop the division. The last time the Bengals started 2–0 in 2015, the team reached the playoffs.

However the game revealed inconsistencies for both Cincinnati and Baltimore—neither team dominated and neither looked completely hapless. Every quarter the momentum just oscillated back and forth—the Bengals have control now ... no, wait ... the Ravens are good now ... no, no, wait. For a period of time it seemed like the team that got more pass interference calls in the end zone would end up the victor.

Cincinnati got off to a fast start—possibly emphasized by Baltimore, who appeared to slowly realize that the team was not playing against Nathan Peterman and the Bills anymore—highlighted by A.J. Green catching three touchdown passes in the first 17 minutes, the first three-TD game of the wide receiver’s career. Geno Atkins did Geno Atkins things, and the offensive line, even the much maligned right side which was abused against Indianapolis in Week 1, looked solid, if not staunch. Andy Dalton looked like it was 2013-15 again, when he was thought of a soon-to-be breakout MVP candidate, as he tossed four touchdown passes in the first half and displayed more zip on his passes than we’ve seen from him in recent seasons. And as a result, the Bengals went into the half having scored 28 points, a total that they reached in only two games last season.

But then in the second half they became, well, the Bengals again as the Ravens showed some signs of life, at times. Joe Flacco went from Trash to Elite, back to Trash, back to Elite, seemingly alternating interceptions with touchdowns in what could be called a microcosm of his career. But as Cincinnati’s offense sputtered, Baltimore slowly narrowed the lead, bringing it to within five midway through the fourth quarter. But the Bengals managed to be just good enough to pull out the not-all-that-impressive win.

All this means, really, is that nobody is coming out of this game looking like the clear class of the division. With the Steelers looking vulnerable after tying Cleveland last week in an extremely ugly game, and conversely the Browns looking at least somewhat competent, this division may not give us the most visually pleasing football to watch this year, but with four competitive, inconsistent teams it will still be fascinating to see how the standings play out going forward.