Street Talk THE AFC NORTH: WEEK 10

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AFC North
Won 2
Lost 2
Lost 1
Lost 3
Baltimore Ravens (6-2)

The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 26-20 on Sunday. The victory moves the Ravens 2 full games ahead of the second place Bengals at the midway point of the 2006 campaign. The Ravens offense dominated the time of possession controlling the football for 37 ½ minutes of the contest and chewed up 374 total yards in one of their most productive efforts of the season. In their 2 losses leading up to their bye week, the Ravens offense turned the ball over 6 times with 3 of those turnovers coming in or near the red zone. Since then, there has been only 1 turnover by this unit. QB Steve McNair completed 21 of 31 passes for 245 yards. The defense played very well against what had been an explosive Bengals passing attack by limiting QB Carson Palmer to 183 net passing yards. The Ravens began the game with a turnover on the opening kickoff as LB Mike Smith stripped kick returner Chris Perry and the fumble was recovered by RB Musa Smith. The offense took full advantage scoring on a short TD run by RB Jamal Lewis. The 2nd Bengals turnover produced 7 more points as CB Samari Rolle intercepted a high throw intended for WR Chad Johnson. While falling to the ground as he was tackled, Rolle handed the ball to S Ed Reed who took it to the end zone. The game ended on the final Bengals turnover as CB Chris McAlister intercepted Palmer’s desperation toss to WR Chris Henry.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-4) 

The loss by the Bengals marked their 4th in the last 5 games played and Head Coach Marvin Lewis will be challenged to right this ship in order to avoid a freefall down the standings in the AFC North. This will be a tall order as the remaining schedule includes road games at New Orleans, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Denver. The Bengals have already been defeated at home 2 times and they still face some tough opponents with San Diego, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh yet to visit Paul Brown Stadium. “In order to win, we needed to play our best — and we didn’t," QB Carson Palmer said. WR Chad Johnson caught only four passes for 32 yards. "We, as a team, are not playing well enough to come away with victories. No explaining necessary. No beating around the bush. As a whole, we are not playing well at all," Johnson said. He was particularly upset about being held to four catches. "Four? Four? That’s substandard. I’m supposed to be the best player and I can’t even get the ball," he said. "No excuses, I didn’t get the job done." After Shayne Graham kicked a 31-yarder for the Bengals, Baltimore punted and Cincinnati took over at its own 24 with 3:21 to go. On fourth-and-4 from the 30, Ronnie Prude broke up a pass to WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Houshmandzadeh screamed for an interference call; then displayed his frustration by taking off his helmet and angrily slamming it to the ground. "A penalty is a penalty. If it’s too much pressure to call it on fourth down, you shouldn’t be refereeing," Houshmandzadeh said. "He hit me before the ball got there."

Cleveland Browns (2-6)

RB LaDainian Tomlinson had another monster game; scoring three touchdowns late in the second half and finishing with 172 yards on 18 carries to lift the Chargers to a sloppy 32-25 win over the Browns. With Cleveland’s offense sputtering against a defense missing its two best pass rushers, Phil Dawson kicked a club-record six field goals — from 37, 20, 42, 30, 36 and 35 yards. The Browns were trying to win consecutive games for the first time in more than three seasons. For a while, it looked like they might succeed. The Browns led 12-10 at the half as the teams were able to manage five field goals and only one TD. “I thought we were going to come out and win," said QB Charlie Frye, who injured his thumb in practice late in the week. "Mistakes — they’re going to kill you." The Browns turned the ball over 4 times including 3 fumbles lost and 1 interception. The Browns were able to gain a slight advantage in time of possession, as the rushing attack picked up 89 yards on 28 carries. Unfortunately, the Browns defense could not control Tomlinson who had 3 second half scoring runs. Frye finished the game with 25 completions on 43 pass attempts for only 204 net passing yards and was sacked 5 times.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6)

The Pittsburgh Steelers dropped their 3rd straight game as they were defeated by the Denver Broncos 31-20 at Heinz Field on Sunday. Broncos WR Javon Walker scored three touchdowns on two receptions and a 72-yard run on a wide receiver reverse and the Denver Broncos took advantage of repeated Pittsburgh mistakes. The Steelers have lost six of seven to match their worst midseason record in Coach Bill Cowher’s 15 seasons. The 2-6 mark also is the worst start by any returning NFL champion in 20 seasons. No team has bounced back from a 2-6 record and a loss in its eighth game to make the playoffs, and only the Arizona Cardinals (1-7) have a worse record in the NFL. QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for a career-high 433 yards by going 38 of 54. But he had three more interceptions, two at the Denver 3-yard line by Champ Bailey — the first coming with the Steelers possibly driving for the tying score midway through the second quarter. WR Hines Ward fumbled at the Broncos 1 in the final two minutes, after being hit by John Lynch, and WR Cedrick Wilson lost a fumble at the 6 with the Steelers trying to come back from the early 14-0 deficit late in the first quarter. The Steelers have more turnovers (24) in half a season than they did all last season (23).


Baltimore (6-2) at Tennessee (2-6)

ITH doesn’t see this as a “trap” game. Last year’s stinker by the Ravens in Tennessee in week 2 has to be fresh in the minds of the Ravens veterans. The game also marks the return of QB Steve McNair to the home field of the franchise that locked him out of its practice facility this past spring. The Titans are dead last in the NFL with the league’s 32nd ranked defense. In their last victory, a 28-22 contest against the Houston Texans 2 weeks ago, the Titans defense yielded 427 yards of total offense. This one shouldn’t be close.
Baltimore 37 Tennessee 10

San Diego (6-2) at Cincinnati (4-4)

The Bengals appear to be a team on the brink of implosion. This is absolutely a must-win situation for a team trying to avoid a freefall tailspin in the division, having lost 4 of their last 5. They also face LaDainian Tomlinson and the number 2 rushing offense in the league. San Diego’s formula of playing “Marty Ball” should serve them well this week against a Cincinnati defense that ranks No. 24 against the run. If the Bengals can get their passing game heated up and get on the scoreboard early with a couple of quick scores, they can win this one. ITH doesn’t think that they have it in them. The Bengals are 11-17 all time versus the Chargers.
San Diego 27 Cincinnati 17

Cleveland (2-6) at Atlanta (5-3)

While it’s not reflected in their record, the Browns are playing decent football. They have just not been able to avoid the costly turnovers in close games. Atlanta’s defense stands at No. 23 in the league and they are No. 31against the pass. The Falcons come off of a tough loss on the road to the Detroit Lions 30 – 14. They have given up 95 points in their last 3 games even though they won 2 of them. The Browns are 9-2 all time versus Atlanta. ITH is calling an upset in this one.
Cleveland 23 Atlanta 17

New Orleans (6-2) at Pittsburgh (2-6)

QB Drew Brees is largely responsible for the Saints being the seventh ranked offense in the NFL (third ranked passing offense). However, they sit at No. 27 rushing the football. The Steelers are doing a superb job of beating themselves. However, it’s never too late to circle the wagons and it’s hard for ITH to see the Steelers losing a second straight game at home. If they can eliminate the turnovers on offense, the Steelers might actually win some games. Call this one “Cowher’s Last Stand.”
Pittsburgh 31 New Orleans 16
Last Week:     2-1  

Season-to-date:     15 -13



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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

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