BEHIND ENEMY LINES: Bengals’ AFC North Lead Holds Steady

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We’ve always known that nothing is a sure thing in the NFL, but this 2013 season has driven that fact into our heads every Sunday like never before.

Let’s face it: The AFC consists of one, maybe two, powerful teams. Other than Denver (in warm weather), New England, and Kansas City, the AFC can be summed up as a bunch of average teams struggling to keep their chins above the water.

While the Ravens do control their own destiny, their schedule is fierce; the 6th spot is anything but locked up, as RSR’s Joe Fanzone noted.

Week 13 cleared up the picture for the North just a bit, but the ultimate view of the big picture is still clouded by uncertainty, described below is this week’s “Behind Enemy Lines”.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Offensive Struggles: San Diego might rank in the bottom five of the league in total defense, but they gave Andy Dalton and the Bengals a struggle. Dalton was held under 200 yards on the day and Gio Bernard struggled to get much of anything going. His longest run was a 19 yard scamper in the 3rd quarter.

Inconsistent play has been a problem for this team thus far, and paired with injury, Cincy has major issues heading into the final stretch. Like the Ravens, the Bengals haven’t won many games convincingly. Five of their eight wins have come by a margin of just one score—a trend that could turn the wrong way in not only these final games, but the playoffs.

O-Line Shuffle: Injuries aren’t something new for Marvin Lewis’ squad, so why wouldn’t there be another shift in the depth chart as we enter Week 14? Starting offensive guard Clint Boling tore his ACL, forcing a mix-up. Here’s how StripeHype.com’s Jason Marcum summed it up:

“Against the Chargers on Sunday, Whitworth moved from left tackle to left guard, while backup Anthony Collins took his spot at LT. The fact that Whitworth spent two years as the starting left guard for the Bengals means he’s more than capable of taking over that spot… This Bengals team keeps finding ways to replace key players and not allow the overall play of the team to drop-off, and the offensive line has been the biggest example of that.”

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Bell’s Status Uncertain: After getting drilled at the goal-line on Turkey Day, Le’Veon Bell hopes to start on Sunday, but that isn’t a certainty, according to Steelers.com. 

Here’s a quote from that article inferring that Bell might not want to take the field this coming week:

“I don’t remember the exact play. I didn’t remember it when it first happened,” said Bell. “Once I came off the field I didn’t really know I had scored. Then they told me I did; then they told me it wasn’t a touchdown. I wasn’t aware of what was going on at the time because I got hit. I can’t really remember what happened.

The Road Ahead: Pittsburgh needs to be perfect in their final four games, but the games won’t be easy. Here are the keys to each match-up:

  • Miami Dolphins: Stop Lamar Miller, attack Miami’s bad rush defense
  • Cincinnati Bengals: Ben Roethlisberger must have a big game
  • @ Green Bay Packers: Contain GB’s running backs, balance on offense
  • Cleveland Browns: Play clean with no turnovers, avoid the disaster

CLEVELAND BROWNS

The Quarterbacks Continue: Just when we thought the Browns couldn’t start any more quarterbacks, they have signed Caleb Hanie, presumably to start on Sunday against New England, according to multiple sources including Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The team also signed Alex Tanney off of the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad. If you’re not quite sure who that Cleveland quarterback is, this might jog your memory:

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Off-season Needs: It was a good run. After seemingly tanking the season after trading away Trent Richardson, the Browns put together a few wins—just enough to drop a couple of spots in the draft! I guess that’s just the Cleveland Browns way.

This team has more than one need, but quarterback has to be at the top of the list. Derek Carr from Fresno State or Brett Hundley from UCLA could be possible options—a full breakdown of draft needs will be published in our off-season “Behind Enemy Lines” edition, so stay tuned.

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About Joe Wedra

Joe Wedra
Joe is an NFL enthusiast that spends way too much time studying tape, but he wouldn't want it any other way. Joe can be found on Twitter @JoeWedra, where he'll tweet out everything from Ravens analysis to scouting reports on Division II offensive line prospects...all for the love of the...more

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