Because the Bengals own the Ravens at home.
Despite going 4-12 last season, they beat the Ravens 15-10 at home and lost by six points on the road. They swept the Ravens in 2009, and have gone 6-2 in their last eight home games against Baltimore.
Why has a perennial loser like the Bengals been so successful against the superior Ravens?
Two words: Marvin Lewis.
As the Bengals head coach since 2003, Lewis came over from the Ravens, where he had won a Super Bowl as the defensive coordinator (96-02). Despite owning a 69-75-1 record as Bengals coach, he is 10-7 against the AFC North division rival.
On the flip side, despite John Harbaugh’s gaudy 47-23 record, he is only 4-3 against the Bengals. The Bengals have been able to contain a Ravens rushing attack, led by Ray Rice, and will show why they have the sixth-ranked unit against the run. With Rice unable to get going, the pressure is on QB Joe Flacco to make plays in the passing game, without top receiver Anquan Boldin.
Flacco has struggled at Paul Brown and sports a 1-2 record, which included a horrific five-turnover game last season.
Even with the new-look Bengals—a team that replaced veterans Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco with Andy Dalton and AJ Green—they were one overturned Jermaine Gresham TD away from tying the November 20th matchup at 31 apiece.
Oh, and Green didn’t even play. He was sidelined with a leg injury.
With a healthy Green (who was just selected to the Pro Bowl), the Bengals have the ability to score much more than the 24 they registered in Round 1.
The Ravens are playing for seeding, but the Bengals are playing for their playoff lives.
Now that the historical dominance at home is coupled with an additional sense of urgency, expect the Bengals to notch their 10th win and secure the sixth seed in the AFC.
Prediction: Bengals 26 Ravens 23