It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write a positive edition of “Behind Enemy Lines”. This week, I’m proud to say that the Ravens actually gained ground in the AFC North.
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t conventional, and it wasn’t easy to watch.
Nevertheless, the Ravens left Week 10 still in the hunt for a playoff berth. With the San Diego Chargers’ loss, the wild-card possibility doesn’t look out of the question either if the Ravens can’t secure the North late in the season.
There’s a lot to see in this division late in the season. The Ravens still have to bypass the Browns, and the Bengals are holding on by a thread with a tough road ahead. Who will prevail?
After the Bengals lost to the Dolphins, I was sick to my stomach. Not because the Bengals lost, (I was thrilled that they had another ‘L’ in their record) but due to the fact that they would be even hungrier to obtain the win at M&T Bank Stadium. Now that Marvin Lewis’ squad has dropped two straight, there’s a big question to be asked:
Are the Bengals really the class of the AFC North?
If we’re being honest, Cincinnati really shouldn’t have even had a shot to win. If it weren’t for James Ihedigbo—who actually had a very good game—the Bengals would have walked away clouded by the reality that the offense managed to score just three points in the first three quarters.
Andy Dalton showed his true colors, tossing three interceptions, two to the aforementioned Ihedigbo. He completed just 24 of his 51 passes, one-third of those being thrown to Giovanni Bernard out of the backfield. The offense converted just five of their 19 third-down attempts, just about 26%.
I worry about the identity of this team going down the stretch. Are they a team that is going to rely on the running game, or put the ball in Dalton’s hands 45+ times a game? What will the defense be able to do? Are they confident?
It’s time for this team to take a hard look at themselves and see where they stand among the teams they still must play.
A win is a win, even if it’s against the depleted Buffalo Bills.
This team is keeping their playoff hopes alive, even with six losses. Le’Veon Bell is starting to make a difference, and at least for one game the defense found its groove. Will they be able to continue their winning ways in the weeks ahead?
They’ll have to face division opponents in four of their last seven games and two of the other games will be against the Lions and the Packers, who should have Aaron Rodgers back by the time Pittsburgh travels to Lambeau.
At this point, it might be time to start looking ahead to 2014. With tons of talent on the roster and youth that is going to grow over the offseason, a high draft pick might just be what the doctor ordered.
The Steelers will pick in the top-half of the order, and there are plenty of Left Tackles to be had. If the team doesn’t shore up that spot at the tail end of this year, look for one of those top tackles to land in Steel Town.
To have a shot at the postseason, the Steelers will have to finish the season no worse than 6-1. While anything can happen in the NFL, I think this might be a bit of a stretch.
“Let’s go Browns.” Right?
As Cleveland travels to Paul Brown Stadium to see the Bengals, the team faces a must-win game, and the team knows it. Here’s a quote from Cleveland.com from D’Qwell Jackson, one of the longest-tenured Browns and a team leader:
“I’m telling you personally – it’s time,” said Jackson. “We’re right in the middle of the pack (and) we definitely earned the right to be in this position. We just have to take care of our business. We don’t know how things are going to play out, what the scenario will be. We can’t focus on that. All we can focus on is being sharp Wednesday, take advantage of this time we have off and over-prepare for Cincinnati because they’re coming off a loss.”
For the Browns to win there’s going to have to be a strong emphasis on avoiding the devastating “Bye Week Blues”. They have lost three of their last four games after the bye.
FLASHBACK: Keep in mind, the Browns have beaten the Bengals already. In week four, the Cleveland defense held the Bengals’ offense to just six points in a 17-6 thriller. Andy Dalton had a very average game, and coming off of a dismal performance in Baltimore, his performance will be one to keep an eye on. All it will take is one mistake to doom the current AFC North leaders.
Here’s what the Browns have ahead:
- @ Cincinnati
- @ New England
- @ New York Jets
- @ Pittsburgh