BEHIND ENEMY LINES: Bengals Claw Ahead, Steelers Get First Win

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Jets

Buckle up, because the rollercoaster season that we all saw approaching is here, and it’s looking like it’s here to stay.

If the Ravens have even an average offense, the team is 5-1 going into Pittsburgh. If the defense isn’t back to near-2000-caliber, they’re 1-5. It all boils down to one critical thing, starting fast. Slow starts are really nothing new in the Joe Flacco era, but this year’s offense has seemed to get going more slowly than ever, leaving fans to question not only the multi-million dollar quarterback, but OC Jim Caldwell as well.

While the entire coaching staff doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on a game-plan week-to-week, some of it does boil down to execution on the field. Without the proper performance, the offense is destined to fail.

The way the schedule has been built, the Ravens will hit a stroke of luck playing their next three games against all of their divisional opponents. In a stretch that will make or break the 2013 campaign, it’s time for John Harbaugh’s “mighty men” to step it up and prove that they’re capable. We all know that this is a team that can win. There has to be an “all hands on deck” approach at this point.

Let’s take our weekly look “Behind Enemy Lines” in a week that could start to define the season.

CINCINNATI BENGALS 

Andy Dalton threw three touchdowns and his running backs had breakout games in their 27-24 OT victory over the Bills. Giovanni Bernard showed his shiftiness and BenJarvus Green-Ellis dominated Buffalo’s front seven all while A.J Green showed his toughness. The offense proved that they are becoming the dominant team you see on paper.

The defense struggled however, as Thad Lewis… yes, Thad Lewis had a great game, spreading the ball to eight different receivers to make it work. Can you imagine what an elite quarterback would have done?

No matter how they’ve won their four games, coming up in the clutch at the end is becoming a trend for Marvin Lewis and the Bengals. Their task next week is going to be one they might not be able to handle—the surging Lions in Detroit.

Led by Matthew Stafford’s four touchdown passes, the Lions easily handled the Browns in Cleveland. Reggie Bush is healthy again and the defense looked impressive. A Bengals loss and a Ravens win would tie it all up again. Is it safe to say we’re all Lions fans next week?

CLEVELAND BROWNS

It turns out that Brian Hoyer’s injury may be a bit bigger than initially thought. After Brandon Weeden delivered a signature mediocre performance against Detroit, you have to wonder if he’ll even make it through the end of the season.

Coupled with his sub-par day, the running game failed to get anything going as the biggest play came from an end-around with Travis Benjamin. Willis McGahee averaged only 3.7 yards per carry and the entire rushing attack failed to deliver a touchdown. Wide receiver Josh Gordon did have another great day, racking up 126 yards on seven catches.

Folks will overreact to the Browns’ struggles, but let’s face it—this team was never really going far. There isn’t one part of the squad that is awful; Cleveland just isn’t a very good team. Their focus right now has to be to squeak out some wins because their failed attempt to tank the season is coming back to bite them. They aren’t going to be able to grab Teddy Bridgewater in April with the number one pick with three wins already, so the spot the team is in now certainly isn’t ideal.

Looking ahead to next week, Cleveland travels to Green Bay in a game that the Packers should take at Lambeau Field. It might take a miracle of “Mile High” proportions for the Browns to beat Rodgers and Co. at home.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

It’s officially Steelers week, one of my favorites of the year. To get you ready for the purple and black invasion, here’s a clip that you should watch before every Pittsburgh week:

YouTube Preview Image

It’s been a struggle thus far for the fans of the Steel City as their team had provided nothing but failure up until last week’s victory against Geno Smith and the Jets. Earning their first win of the year and finding some semblance of success, Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff seem to still need to find some identity if they’re looking to make a deep run at the end of the year.

The defense has shown up at times, but the combination of incredible youth and aging players are hurting them at times. Troy Polamalu is still providing a spark, but his days of leaping over the line and stopping the play in its tracks are coming to a close. Still, look out for this defense to have one of their best games in one of the biggest of the year.

Some moves might be coming this week after the team got pretty banged up last week. Newly-acquired Levi Brown suffered an injury in pre-game that the team isn’t quite sure about as of now, and according to sources, tight end David Johnson dislocated his wrist.

Defensive superstar Brett Keisel suffered a rib injury that didn’t seem too serious, but may cause him to miss some practice time and maybe even label him as a game-time decision come Sunday.

It’s a critical week in Baltimore and the divisional games are going to be some that define a season. Can the Ravens prevail?

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About Joe Wedra

Joe Wedra
Joe has a passion for the Ravens and spends a great amount of time analyzing and often scrutinizing the various moves within the organization. He is an NFL Draft enthusiast and spends much of his free time studying tape of upcoming prospects. Although he’s young, he’s committed to absorbing as...more

2 Raves on “BEHIND ENEMY LINES: Bengals Claw Ahead, Steelers Get First Win

  1. mrdot on said:

    The hope among Cleveland fans was that Hoyer would have been good enough to let them use their trove of draft picks to flesh out the rest of the team and take a project quarterback rather than having to bundle them all together to move up high enough for a “franchise” quarterback.
    Now that Weeden’s back they really are screwed; too good for a top five pick but still in need of at least an average quarterback. Despite choking it out against Detroit last week, they still have a good defense, and I’m legitimately concerned they could blunder into a win vs. the Ravens next month with our terrible o-line. Like final score 6-3 bad.

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