Street Talk AFC NORTH: WEEK 6

Posted in Street Talk
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Team
W
L
T
PCT
PF
PA
Home
Road
AFC
NFC
DIV
Streak
Baltimore 

 
4
1
0
.800
89
46
2-0
2-1
3-1
1-0
1-0
Lost 1
Cincinnati 

 
3
1
0
.750
98
85
1-1
2-0
3-1
0-0
2-0
Lost 1
Pittsburgh 

 
1
3
0
.250
61
77
1-1
0-2
1-3
0-0
0-1
Lost 3
Cleveland 

 
1
4
0
.200
81
109
0-2
1-2
1-2
0-2
0-2
Lost 1
 
 
 Baltimore Ravens     (4-1) 
 
The Ravens are no longer undefeated after dropping a 13-3 battle with the Denver Broncos. As is the case with most close, hard-fought defensive struggles, the game’s outcome usually hinges on a few critical plays. Monday’s game was no different. The Ravens converted two Broncos turnovers into only 3 points. That more than anything tells the story as to why they lost against a very good Denver team. As soon as I saw WR Clarence Moore stepped foot upon the soggy Invesco Field turf with the Ravens facing a third and 9 at the Denver 10 with just 36 seconds remaining until halftime, everyone knew what was coming.
 
A field goal in that spot changes the complexion and maybe the outcome of the game… The Moore debacle would have been rendered moot had Steve McNair been able to connect with Mark Clayton 2 plays earlier but the two failed to make the connection… On the previous Ravens drive the team faced a third and 1 from its own 30 when they attempted a fake handoff and lob pass to TE Todd Heap, which would have gone for big yardage, except McNair was late delivering the football and the team was forced to punt the ball away. Nice change of pace call though by Coach Fassel… While not particularly consistent, the O-line did a nice job in pass protection and this writer sees enough evidence that the problems with the running game may be more of an issue with RB Jamal Lewis. This is evidenced by the effectiveness of RB Musa Smith and RB Mike Anderson. Lewis will need to pick up the pace this week or his starting job could be in jeopardy if it isn’t already.
 
Cincinnati Bengals     (3-1)
 
The Bengals had their bye week on 10/8. They travel to Tampa Bay in week 6 to face the winless Buccaneers…
 
As they were last Sunday, the Bengals will be without wide receiver Chris Henry for the next two games after the NFL suspended him without pay for violations of the league’s personal conduct policy and substance abuse policy. He’s also been fined $20,000… The surprise is not that the Bengals are 3-1. But that they are 3-1 even though QB Carson Palmer has been sacked 15 times and lost four fumbles while wide receiver Chad Johnson doesn’t have a catch longer than 18 yards and the top 6 offense is ranked just 19th after failing to hit 300 yards in three of the four games… On the defensive side of the ball, the Bengals rank 27th in the league in rushing defense. Through 4 games, they have given up 576 rushing yards, for a whopping 4.6 yards per attempt. It’s hard to envision this team making a run in the playoffs if they don’t improve their defense against the run.
 
Cleveland Browns     (1-4)
 
There are a number of Browns fans who believe that the team will start winning when they rid themselves of offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon. Cleveland dropped to 1-4 after a 20-12 loss to the Carolina Panthers. These fans need only to reference this remark: "We knew what that offense was going to do," Carolina DT Mike Rucker said. "There were times when from watching film we knew exactly what we were going to do and we were beating them to the punch."… The offense failed to consistently drive the football against a very tough Panthers defense… QB Charlie Frye was 26 of 43 for 173 yards and two interceptions, the last by Mike Minter that iced the game… Panthers DE Julius Peppers was a disruptive force as he had a sack, forced a fumble and hit Frye five other times… The Browns were hurt when they lost WR Dennis Northcutt to a rib injury in the third quarter and RB Reuben  Droughens, who rushed for a career-high 193 yards against Carolina two years ago with Denver, was held to 65 yards on 18 carries… The Browns played without their starting cornerbacks. Gary Baxter missed his third straight game with an injured chest muscle, while Leigh Bodden (sprained ankle) was scratched at game time. Still, the Browns back-up DBs held their own against Carolina’s sometimes potent passing attack. WR Keyshawn Johnson had five catches for 67 yards and WR Steve Smith was held to six catches for 62 yards. "Overall, I thought (the secondary) did pretty well," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said.
 
Pittsburgh Steelers     (1-3)
 
After 4 games, the Steelers find themselves as winners of only 1 and they have now dropped 3 straight… They also lost three straight late last season, recovered to earn a wild-card playoff spot and went on to win the Super Bowl… "I can’t tell you the last time I lost three games in a row," said QB Ben Roethlisberger, who threw two more interceptions, giving him seven this season, and was sacked five times. "I feel like I have let my teammates down and let the fans down. I know I can play better and I know I will." … He has yet to throw a touchdown pass this season and finished 20-of-31 for 220 yards… The Steelers were shut out in the second half and gained just 49 yards after intermission… Commenting on the play of QB Phillip Rivers, "We really didn’t have any answer for them in the second half", Head Coach Bill Cowher said. "He was throwing the ball very accurately. We couldn’t get off the field." … The Chargers defense limited the Pittsburgh’s rushing attack to 68 yards on only 18 carries. Unless they can figure out how to get more out of their rushing attack, the Steelers will continue to struggle… A week after the Ravens contained TE Antonio Gates, the Chargers star had a very productive game versus the Steelers secondary. Gates caught 3 passes for 55 yards and a TD… LB James Harrison injured his left ankle in the first quarter and didn’t return.
 
ITH Predictions:
 
ITH predicts a tough week for the AFC North. The division is on a cumulative 6 game losing streak, and the funk could continue in week 6.
 
Carolina at Baltimore
 
The Panthers visit Baltimore having recorded 3 straight wins after dropping their first two games. Carolina ranks 18th in total defense, including 21st as a rush defense. Note that after giving up 100+ yard games to RB Warrick Dunn (Atlanta) and RB Chester Taylor (Minnesota), the Panthers held their next 3 opponents to under 100 yards rushing. The Ravens have not been able to establish their running game with consistency. While the Panthers rank 12th in rush offense, they feature a strong passing attack with WR Keyshawn Johnson and WR Steve Smith. This is a balanced attack with a veteran QB that could pose problems for the Ravens defense.
 
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens will need to neutralize the fierce pass rush of DE Julius Peppers.  To do so, they’ll have to run the ball effectively or their chances of winning are severely compromised. With the bye week approaching, the team needs to find some solutions with their running game. The Ravens can win if Jamal breaks loose, or if they get a big game from Smith or Anderson. A pick by many to reach the Super Bowl, the Panthers appear to be gaining their playoff stride. With a short week to prepare, the Ravens defense may not play to its normal at home shutdown efficiency.
   
Carolina 22     Baltimore 13
 
Cincinnati at Tampa Bay
 
Cincinnati returns to the field after their bye week with a visit to Tampa Bay. While the Buccaneers are 0-4, they have improved substantially since the Ravens dominated them in week 1. Tampa lost to Carolina by 2 points 2 weeks ago and lost by only 3 points in New Orleans last week. QB Bruce Gradkowski replaced an injured Chris Simms and put up solid numbers going 20 of 31 for 225 yards, 2 TDs and no INTs. RB Carnell Williams is starting to look like the star he was in 2005, gaining 111 yards against the Saints and faces a Bengals defense that has not been able to stop the run. Cincinnati is 3-5 all time versus Tampa Bay.
 
Conventional wisdom dictates, and most handicappers will pick the Bengals to rebound from their home loss to New England after a week off. ITH however smells an upset. Tampa Bay has to win a game eventually and this is the week they get their first win.
 
Tampa Bay 27   Cincinnati 23
 
Kansas City at Pittsburgh
 
The reeling defending champions return home to face the Chiefs, winners of their last 2 games. Chiefs QB Damon Huard posted nice numbers filling in for an injured Trent Green leading the Chiefs from 14 points down to defeat the hapless Arizona Cardinals. Huard’s statistics are solid at a 107.4 QB rating, a 70.2% completion percentage, 5 TDs and no INTs. The Chiefs defense has allowed only 13 second half points this year and no second half TDs. They’ve only allowed 1- 100 yard rusher in their last 27 games.
 
The Steelers are the only NFL team to have allowed no first quarter points. Dating back to 12/1/2002, the Chiefs are 16-2 when forcing 2 or more interceptions. QB Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 0 TD passes and has been intercepted 7 times. The Steelers are 16-9 all time versus Kansas City, but the teams have split the last 6 meetings. This game could hinge on which RB, Willie Parker or Larry Johnson, can dominate the game. The Steelers can’t possibly fall to 1-4, can they?
 
Kansas City 20   Pittsburgh 17
 
The Cleveland Browns are idle in week 6.
 
ITH record last week: 1-2
ITH record 2006: 9-6

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Eric Buckner

About Eric Buckner

Eric Buckner is a native of Baltimore and has lived in the area his entire life. A graduate of Towson University , Eric has been a student of professional football since the day he wept in his grandfather’s bedroom after the Baltimore Colts were upset by the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. A loyal fan of the Colts and subsequently the Ravens, Eric’s passion for the NFL is unwavering as evidenced by his near flawless attendance record at Ravens’ games. He’s missed only one preseason game — back in 2005. We’ll cut him some slack since he was on his honeymoon. You won’t find Eric slacking when it comes to covering the AFC North for ProFootball24x7.com.
 

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