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Can the Ravens recover?

The Baltimore Ravens are in an unfamiliar position. Baltimore is 0-2 and facing a must-win on Sunday in its home opener at M&T Bank Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that has won four of their last five head-to-head meetings versus the Ravens.

Baltimore was the underdog against the four-time defending AFC West champion Denver Broncos and lost in a tight defensive battle in Week 1, with neither team mustering up an offensive touchdown. The following Sunday brought another road game against the Oakland Raiders, a team that had been shelled by Cincinnati the week prior, 33-13.

The Ravens were supposed to cruise past the listless Raiders, but instead were upended in the O.co Coliseum. Derek Carr threw for a career-high 351 yards and three touchdowns, leading Oakland back in the final minute for a wild 37-33 victory.

For Baltimore, the problem is multi-faceted. What is the identity of this team, and can it recover from an 0-2 hole in the tough AFC North?

The Ravens came into the season looking like a squad that would mostly rely on its defense, but that notion took a drastic hit when outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was lost for the season in Week 1 with a torn Achilles tendon. Suggs is the emotional leader of the team and a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Without him, Baltimore has just one legitimate pass-rusher in Elvis Dumervil, who teams can now scheme to stop without the worry of Suggs.

Offensively, the Ravens are extremely limited. Baltimore is still getting used to a new offensive scheme, after last year’s offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak left for the head coaching job in Denver. In his place stepped Marc Trestman, who was fired in January after two subpar seasons as the head coach of the Chicago Bears. Trestman’s style calls for a more upscale passing attack, something Joe Flacco is struggling with thanks to poor receivers outside of 36-year-old Steve Smith Sr.

Baltimore has been both awful and incredible on both sides of the ball through two games, and now comes Cincinnati. The Bengals are a run-first team with a solid defense, led by a defensive line anchored by Geno Atkins. Baltimore must find a way to get off the mat against its division rivals, or face extinction in September.

Currently, Flacco has turned the ball over too much with three interceptions, while running back Justin Forsett has 111 rushing yards. Defensively, Dumervil has accounted for no sacks and four tackles through two games, leaving a middling secondary to be exposed.

After the Bengals, the Ravens have the pleasure of playing on Thursday Night Football at Heinz Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Frankly, a loss to Cincinnati will have Baltimore likely looking at 0-4.

The Ravens must find themselves on Sunday and then get rolling. Otherwise, they are bound to be swept away.

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