Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/11/12

After an entertaining first Monday Night Football game, the AFC North has only a single team with an opening week victory: the Baltimore Ravens.

Baltimore got off to a quick start by scoring on their first three drives and the score was quickly 17-3.

However, a few long drives by Cincinnati brought the game within reach and mid-way through the third quarter the lead was narrowed to 17-13.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco turned up the offensive pressure again and the team never looked back outscoring the Bengals 27-0 for the rest of the contest resulting in a 44-13 victory for Baltimore.

After a game like this, it’s hard to choose only one “hero” while I also find it difficult to point a finger at one single player for being the “zero”, or goat of the game.

Nevertheless, I chose Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco as the “HERO” and Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green as the “ZERO”.

HERO:

JOE FLACCO 

All the talk leading up to the game was about Flacco and the Ravens' new offensive philosophy which now features a no-huddle system.

Flacco delivered.

The fifth-year quarterback has been scrutinized for his lack of consistency while being carried primarily by a power running game and a stingy defense throughout his first four years in the league.

He is the only quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to the playoffs every year for his first four seasons in the league while also winning a playoff game each year and his durability can not be questioned as he has never missed a game in his career.

However, the NFL has been evolving to a passing league as the top teams have quarterbacks putting up record numbers and Flacco is ready to take this offense to new heights. Ravens new quarterback coach is Jim Caldwell who was the former offensive coordinator for Peyton Manning in Indianapolis for seven seasons.

He was the head coach last year and got fired before making his way to Baltimore. His no-huddle offensive philosophy will allow the Ravens to run more plays while also putting Joe Flacco in complete control at the line of scrimmage, similar to the way Manning ran the Colts' offense for years.

This was the first real game Baltimore put that offensive plan into affect and it worked wonders for a team that is primed for a Super Bowl run. Flacco was unstoppable in the first half while the defense of Cincinnati looked out of sorts and confused by the play calling of Baltimore.

When the game was tight in the third quarter, Flacco led the Ravens on an 89-yard drive for another touchdown and Baltimore never looked back. Flacco went 21-29 for 299 yards and two touchdowns in a stellar performance. He could’ve put up even bigger numbers if the game was close as the starters for the Ravens did not play the last nine minutes of the game.

Flacco’s decision making and accuracy should have Ravens fans ecstatic for this season as Baltimore has the offensive weapons to go along with that great defense. He must be able to continue with his success while visiting Philadelphia in week two if they want to win a highly anticipated game of Super Bowl hopefuls.

ZERO:

A.J. GREEN

It’s hard to call a guy who caught 5 balls for 70 yards the “zero”, or goat of the game, but if I had to choose anybody it would have to be the explosive wide out for the Bengals. No one had a terrible game, but Green is the high-profiled player on the team and he was basically a non factor for the Bengals as they lost badly.

The wide receiver was constantly shadowed by a safety to eliminate the big play and the other receivers did not step up and produce big plays for the offense. Green was targeted 11 times and only caught five balls in a game where he looked frustrated.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said before the game that he thinks Green is already one of the best receivers in the NFL and he hasn’t seen a first year player dominate like Green did in his rookie season since Calvin Johnson came into the league for the Lions.

While A.J. did not have the best first game he could’ve had, I think he will still have a great year and put up huge numbers for Cincinnati in his second season as the team tries to make the playoffs again.

Green has caught only seven total balls in his three career games vs. the Ravens so he will try to make a bigger impact in their next meeting which is the last game of the season in week 17.



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