Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh walks off the field after being defeated by Cincinnati Bengals 34-17 at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Ravens the new Bengals of the AFC North?

Let’s preface this by saying: I went from not being a Ravens fan, to be a big Ravens fan, to now being indifferent – it’s a long story. I have no dogs in the fight, but I still have to live in Baltimore, and this is not really a shot as much as a mere observation.

Since their move to Baltimore, the Ravens have been one of the NFL’s best models on how to run a franchise. They have drafted studs, naturally won the city of Baltimore and fans over, made smart free agent hires and I could go on, but most importantly: they have won games. The Ravens have seen nine playoff appearances since 2000, as well as winning two Superbowl’s, tied for most in the AFC North with Pittsburgh, and only trailing the leader of the AFC’s ring count, the New England Patriots by one. They kept their nose (mostly) clean, and won games.

In that same time the Bengals have only been to the playoffs five times, and have yet to win a game. Granted, they have made it four of the last five years. Cincy has gotten some bad luck with injuries, drafted busts, and made some awful free agent signings (Terrell Owens and Pac-Man Jones come to mind). They have gotten in trouble, and lost games.

Baltimore’s five-year playoff streak was broken last year. In the first season post Ray Lewis, it seemed to be a different locker room. In reality, if you would have known as bad as Joe Flacco played, as poor as the line performed, as little production as the team got from running backs, compounded with all of the injuries and one of the worst defenses to hobble into M&T Bank Stadium in the last 15 years, that Baltimore would have a chance to make it to the playoffs in the last week of the season – Raven faithful take that 10 times out of 10.

Needless to say, Baltimore lost to Cincinnati (oddly enough) in the final week of the season, and proceeded on to early vacation.

I would hardly say the power in the AFC North is “swinging” one way or another. I mean, Andy Dalton is gaining some experience, but still relatively unproven, and the Bengals have more questions than that to answer. Conversely, Baltimore is one year removed from being the world champions, but they have their own questions to answer – a lot of them. Chiefly, right now: If Joe Flacco wants to turn around and hand the ball off, no one will be there to receive it – but we will get to that.

Oct 20, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens helmet in a team huddle before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The perception, however, may be shifting a bit.

During that span of time we spoke of previously, a 13 season time frame, the Ravens dealt with 16 arrests, by only 10 different players. Only two of the run ins with the law lead to players actually missing any game time. Chris McAlister lead the pack with three. Now, if that number seems high to you, here comes the fun.

Keeping in mind we are talking about the same time period, Cincinnati had 41 arrests. Hell, Chris Henry and Pac-Man Jones both got arrested in three different states on three different charges. The number is so awful it is almost impressive.

The table has apparently turned.

Just this off-season the Ravens have had four players already arrested: We all know the Ray Rice drama. Fellow runningback Lorenzo Taliaferro joined him with a public intox last month. Receiver Deonte Thompson (felonly possesion of marijuana) and Jah Read (misdemenor battery), also didn’t want to be left out.

That’s just scratching the surface. Remember last year when Jacoby Jones got hit by a bottle in the head by a “dancer” referred to as “Sweat Pea.” Seemed more like something Pac-Man, not Jacoby, Jones would get caught up in, but maybe thats the new norm in Baltimore.

Cincinnati has only had one guy in legal trouble in the past season or so: Orson Charles, who may not even make the team this season.

Take what you will. It’s just that the name of the game is to have good headlines, or stay out of the headlines – and Baltimore has had some bad headlines recently. Much more than their inter-league rival a few states to the west.

Tags: AFC North Joe Flacco NFL

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