Street Talk THE AFC NORTH:WEEK 2

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AFC North Standings
Team
W
L
T
PCT
PF
PA
Home
Road
AFC
NFC
DIV
Streak
1
0
0
1.000
27
0
0-0
1-0
0-0
1-0
0-0
Won 1
1
0
0
1.000
23
10
0-0
1-0
1-0
0-0
0-0
Won 1
1
0
0
1.000
28
17
1-0
0-0
1-0
0-0
0-0
Won 1
0
1
0
.000
14
19
0-1
0-0
0-0
0-1
0-0
Lost 1
 
Baltimore Ravens   (1 – 0)
 
The Ravens emphatically ended their 11-game road losing streak with a 27-0 shellacking of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium… The often maligned offensive line played a key role in the victory with a very respectable performance, the defense was dominant, and the Ravens were called for only 4 penalties for 25 yards and committed zero turnovers; the ultimate recipe for a road victory… You can’t help but notice how QB Steve McNair has brought a sense of confidence to the entire team and coaching staff mainly as a result of his calm demeanor; A relatively unanimated Brian Billick was on the sidelines this week knowing that he has a QB that can handle the playbook and execute the game plan… You can always judge whether the heat is extreme when you see Coach Billick wearing a cap; he never wears one unless it is hot or it is raining… 
 
The defense has already staked the team to a + 3 turnover margin with interceptions by Chris McAlister (returned for a TD), Ed Reed, and Rookie DT Haloti Ngata. The team missed out on a 4th opportunity when LB Jarrett Johnson dropped a sure interception on a ball thrown right to him, prompting D- Coordinator Rex Ryan to quip that he would have Ngata and Johnson switch roles for the Oakland game… Baltimore’s home opener takes place this week against the Oakland Raiders, who will be traveling east on short rest after their Monday night contest against San Diego… The Ravens are 2-1 all time versus the Raiders… The extended weather forecast is for Sunny, clear skies and a high of 78 degrees.
 
ITH Prediction:     Baltimore 30   Oakland 13
 
Cincinnati Bengals   (1 – 0)
 
The Cincinnati Bengals won their opener on the road at Kansas City defeating the Chiefs by a margin of 23-10… Palmer, exactly eight months after surgeons repaired his mangled left knee, was not sharp at the beginning. But then the Bengals went to their no-huddle offense and he hit nine passes in a row in an impressive stretch that seemed to announce he’s ready to return to the league’s elite… Once Palmer found his touch, RB Rudi Johnson and RB Kenny Watson scored touchdowns in a 17-point second-quarter… Palmer was 13 for 19 for 127 yards… The Bengals defense had seven sacks of QB Trent Green and backup QB Damon Huard, running through a revamped Chiefs line which includes two new tackles…
 
The defense also held RB Larry Johnson to 68 yards on only 17 carries, the first time in 10 games that he didn’t have at least 100 yards… Cincinnati comes home to face the Cleveland Browns in the first division game played in the AFC North in 2006… The Bengals have the opportunity to even up the all time record versus the Browns, which currently stands at 32-33… The extended weather forecast is for Sunny, clear skies and a high of 80 degrees. 
  
ITH Prediction:     Cincinnati 24   Cleveland 13
 
Cleveland Browns   (0 – 1)
 
The Cleveland Browns dropped their home opener to the New Orleans Saints by the score of 19-14… It was a painful and somewhat fitting ending for the Browns, who are celebrating their 60th anniversary in the NFL. On their first offensive play, WR Braylon Edwards got behind the Saints defense for a 74-yard TD reception that got called back by a penalty… The Browns fell to 1-7 in season openers since returning to the league in 1999, that win coming at the expense of the Ravens… Cleveland was blanked in the first 30 minutes and held to 56 total yards… The Browns came back as QB Charlie Frye threw an 18-yard TD pass to TE Kellen Winslow, and the second-year quarterback scored on a 1-yard sneak to bring Cleveland within 16-14 with 11:20 to go… Winslow looked fully recovered after missing 30 games the past two seasons and had eight catches for 63 yards…
 
The Browns brought in veteran defensive players LB Willie McGinest and DT Ted Washington this off-season to improve the run defense, but it didn’t seem to help against the Saints. The Browns yielded 150 yards rushing to the combination of Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush… The defense as a unit failed to sack Saints QB Drew Brees… The Saints defense has been talked about as being a weakness throughout training camp and the preseason; however they held the Browns RBs to only 41 yards on 16 carries.
 
Pittsburgh Steelers   (1 – 0)
 
The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in the NFL opener defeating the Dolphins at home by score of 28-17. The Steelers broke open a close contest on an 87-yard touchdown pass play midway through the fourth quarter when fill-in QB Charlie Batch connected with TE Heath Miller… After the play, Dolphins Head Coach Nick Saban failed to toss the challenge flag close enough to get referee Walt Coleman’s attention. I’m guessing that Coach Saban worked with the scout team offense last week and didn’t get enough reps to make a better toss come game time… LB Joey Porter returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown and then planted a big wet one on Bill Cowher’s neck… Miami was beginning to have success rushing the football in the third quarter and for some unexplained reason they chose to abandon the ground attack while the game was still close; this begs the question, “Why all the hype surrounding Nick Saban?”
 
Even though RB Willie Parker had a nice game and the Steelers signed RB Najeh Davenport, it remains to be seen whether they have resolved their problem at this position… The Steelers visit the Jacksonville Jaguars for a Monday Night tilt that should be a very physical contest… Pittsburgh is 8-9 all time against this former AFC Central Division foe and ITH thinks that the Jaguars will be primed to show the country that they are a legitimate threat to the Indy Irsays in 2006… The extended weather forecast calls for mostly clear skies with a high of 89 degrees and a low of 72 degrees.
 
ITH Prediction:     Jacksonville 27   Pittsburgh 13
 
Last Week’s ITH Record: 2-2

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Eric Buckner

About Eric Buckner

Eric Buckner is a native of Baltimore and has lived in the area his entire life. A graduate of Towson University , Eric has been a student of professional football since the day he wept in his grandfather's bedroom after the Baltimore Colts were upset by the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. A loyal fan of the Colts and subsequently the Ravens, Eric's passion for the NFL is unwavering as evidenced by his near flawless attendance record at Ravens' games. He's missed only one preseason game -- back in 2005. We'll cut him some slack since he was on his honeymoon. You won't find Eric slacking when it comes to covering the AFC North for ProFootball24x7.com.   More from Eric Buckner

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