BEHIND ENEMY LINES: The Unpredictable AFC North

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The Ravens were supposed to come out of their two-game road trip with some separation atop the AFC North. With the Bengals playing the Patriots, and the Browns in the midst of a quarterback controversy, all John Harbaugh would need was a win and a chance of sole possession of first place would be in front of them.

That didn’t exactly happen.

An impressive team victory did occur in Miami, but the same happened with Cleveland and Cincinnati. The Browns set the tone on Thursday night and Cincinnati decided this would be a nice week to break up Tom Brady’s consecutive-touchdown pass game streak.

Seriously? In the famous words of the ESPN Monday Night Football crew—C’mon Man!

The North has been a total mystery this season and not much changed in week five. It’s once again time to go “Behind Enemy Lines”.

 

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Defense Rules: Marvin Lewis’ squad held Tom Brady and the high-powered New England offense to six points in a game that was washed out by a steady rain all afternoon long—especially on the Patriots final drive to attempt to tie the game with less than two minutes to play.

The Bengals forced two turnovers and kept an offense that has been notorious for big plays to an 8 % (1-12) success rate on third downs. The team also won the time-of-possession battle by nearly ten minutes.

With the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins on the schedule over the next four weeks—there has to be a sense of urgency around the rest of the division to rack up the wins quickly.

Can We Trust the Offense? The defense has held the glue together in Cincinnati’s wins, but you have to worry about the offensive struggles. The wins that they have pulled off haven’t been pretty and there has to be concern when looking at the squad.

It’s hard to trust Andy Dalton and his ability (or lack thereof) to protect the football. If that continues it could be costly.

The running game has flourished, but Gio Bernard showed his youth yesterday with a fumble in the final four minutes that would have cost them the game if it weren’t for Tom Brady’s rare struggles.

There are many bright spots on Jay Gruden’s offense, but will youthful mistakes cost them down the stretch?

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Weeden Time…Again: After Brian Hoyer tore his ACL on Thursday against the Bills, it appears that the staff is going to turn to Brandon Weeden to carry the load under center. He threw several dimes right on the money on Thursday and you have to believe that the balance of this season is a fight for the rest of his career.

The team passed on Josh Freeman who was released by the Buccaneers and with Jason Campbell the next best option, Weeden should have a shot to lead the team.

It’s going to be a tough road ahead with the Lions, Packers, Chiefs, and Ravens on the upcoming schedule. Will Weeden establish himself as the starter or will the Browns finally restore the usual distraught faces to the “Factory of Sadness”?

Players Praise Coach: In a recent article on the team’s official website, many players are seemingly rallying around new coach Rob Chudzinski. Here’s what safety T.J Ward had to say:

“Our attitude is we’re happy that things are going the way they are, but we’re in no way settling into what we’re doing right now,” Ward said. “We’ll continue to work hard. We have that drive for greatness, that drive for betterment every week. We have a group of hard workers, determined, persistent players, and I think we’re a reflection of Coach Chud.”

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Levi Brown to Pittsburgh: After Ozzie Newsome dealt a few draft picks to acquire Bryant McKinnie’s likely replacement Eugene Monroe, the Steelers brass countered with a move that brought offensive tackle Levi Brown to the Steel City.

Brown hasn’t been known as an elite lineman, but he may make a difference on an offensive line that has been in a word—dreadful. He missed all of 2012 with an arm injury and started all four games at tackle for Arizona this year.

The Steelers dropped defensive back Isaiah Green to make room for Brown.

Projecting the Crucial Games: Although it’s unlikely, the Steelers have one final shot to stay in the running for the North’s title with their next few games. One loss in the next three should take them out of the contest, so here’s a look at the next three games and the key to each:

 

  • New York Jets: On the road, the Steelers must find a way to overcome a probable must-win game for New York and get their offense together again.
  • Baltimore Ravens: They play this one at home. The key here is to force Joe Flacco into turning the ball over and making plays in all three aspects of the game.
  • Oakland Raiders: This looked like an easy win at the beginning of the year, but Terrelle Pryor has emerged as a nice option. Along with a dominating offensive performance, the defense must keep Pryor off-balance and confused all day long.

One Rave about “BEHIND ENEMY LINES: The Unpredictable AFC North

  1. Berdj Rassam on said:

    To date, Baltimore has the best offense, while the Bengals are the least productive. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bengals have the best defense while the Ravens have the worst. On both side of the ball the Browns are in the middle of these 3 teams. Unpredictable who wins for sure, but how do you bet against the Ravens and Bengals and for the Browns?

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