BEHIND ENEMY LINES: Bengals Extend Lead, Steelers Still Breathing

Marvin Jones, Chris Houston

Week Seven summed up the Ravens season pretty well, as it seems as though no matter how much much the players may talk about winning, no one can turn the page and “get better”.

Joe Flacco missed some throws.

The running game, though it seemed better, was still dismal.

The coaching was pitiful.

Through seven weeks, not much else could go wrong for this slumping team. Only one thing provides a silver lining after a loss at Heinz Field—a 5-4 and a 3-1 divisional record after Week Ten is still very much a possibility.

Heading into the bye week, it’s going to be the performance of rivals around the North providing the major storylines. Dating back to 2007, the Steelers have won five of their six games when the Ravens are on the bye. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have combined for a 5-2 record on Ravens bye weeks since 2009.

This week is going to shift things around big-time. Can the Bengals jump ahead to a 2.5-game lead? Will the Steelers tie the Ravens with a 3-4 record? Find out below as we take our weekly look Behind Enemy Lines.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Week Eight Opponent: New York Jets (4-3)

STAT OF THE WEEK: The Jets have won 9 of the last 10 meetings between these two teams dating back to 1992.

Well, if the stat of the week is any indication of things to come, the Ravens might get lucky. The Jets have been cruising as they sit at 2nd place in the AFC East after a colossal victory over the New England Patriots. Rex Ryan’s crew ranks near the top of many defensive categories, including rushing yards per game where they are allowing just around 80 yards.

The biggest storyline—barring a total defensive letdown—should be the production of the Bengals running backs. If New York can force Andy Dalton to take control of the game, bad things can, and likely will, happen. A.J Green and Tyler Eifert can strike, but the Jets should be able to take control of this one with their secondary that ranks in the top ten.

Be sure to keep an eye on the Bengals addressing their depleted secondary. The Cincinnati pass defense hasn’t been perfect, and the loss of cornerback Leon Hall could be devastating. Marvin Lewis is going to have to rely on others like Dre Kirkpatrick to step up—something that could end up helping the Jets offense.

Geno Smith, it’s your time!

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Week Eight Opponent: Oakland Raiders (2-4)

STAT OF THE WEEK: Ben Roethlisberger had arguably his best game as an NFL quarterback against Oakland in 2012. He threw for 384 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Before you discount the Raiders in this one, take a step back and look at the big picture. Yes, Pittsburgh is surging after a huge win against the Ravens, but there’s no need to believe that Big Ben and Co. are going to run away with this one.

These two teams played each other last year, and despite the fact that Oakland went into the game 0-2 and basically counted out, they pulled off a big 34-31 victory with offensive firepower. Darren McFadden averaged 6.3 yards a carry, totaling 113 with a touchdown, helping the Raiders to an improbable victory.

This week feels eerily similar. The Raiders are desperate for a win, hosting the Steelers, a team that heads into Oakland knowing this might be a trap game. They’ll travel to see Tom Brady after this one, so a letdown would all but end a season that started slower than any in recent memory around Steel Town.

The rushing attacks of these two teams will decide this showdown. Darren McFadden is struggling, so his performance will be one to watch. Across the gridiron, Le’Veon Bell is looking like the running back we all expected out of Michigan State. With his downhill rushing attack, he has the ability to grind Pittsburgh to a victory.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Week Eight Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs (7-0)

STAT OF THE DAY: Willis McGahee is only averaging 2.9 yards per carry this season in a non-existent Cleveland rushing attack.

Remember when we all thought that Cleveland might actually have a shot to win the North?

Like about two weeks ago?

Yeah, it’s safe to say that things change pretty quickly in the NFL. After losing Brian Hoyer to an ACL tear and being stuck with Brandon “let’s keep throwing shovel pass interceptions” Weeden, the Browns season is quickly showing why their stadium is often dubbed The Factory of Sadness.

Cleveland is squaring off against the final unbeaten team in the league in a week that looks to send them to 3-5 and possibly the pit of the AFC North… again.

There is no identity in the offense, the defense is finally proving to be Browns-caliber, and Weeden has forgotten how to throw a complete pass. (17-42 on Sunday in Green Bay).

You really have to feel for Cleveland right now. After teasing with their fans, the team has landed back on planet earth. We might be in a slump, Ravens Nation—but at least we aren’t Browns fans!

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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

One Rave about “BEHIND ENEMY LINES: Bengals Extend Lead, Steelers Still Breathing

  1. Tyler on said:

    I strongly disagree with Jameel immediately stepping in and starting, as soon as Art Brown gets his shot. If Brown is ever going to develop, he needs reps alongside a veteran. The way Dsmith is playing, he’s that veteran. Plus, Jameel was slow as hell on Sunday. Mad respect to the guy for staying in shape, but he needs to hold a reserve position. We need someone who knows the system on backup, anyway.Let Brown learn and gain some confidence.

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