Street Talk AFC NORTH: WEEK 12

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AFC North
Won 4
Won 1
Won 2
Lost 1
Baltimore Ravens     (8-2)
The Ravens overcame a 7-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 24-10. Baltimore has allowed only 6 points in the 3rd quarter all season long and they were able to contain QB Michael Vick limiting the Falcons to 3 second half points in the victory. RB Jamal Lewis picked up 91 yards on 22 carries and ran for 3 TDs in a very productive 2nd half. QB Steve McNair completed 24 of 34 pass attempts for 236 yards. The Ravens defense was very successful in placing pressure on Vick, sacking him 5 times in the contest as DE Terrell Suggs (1 sack) and DE Trevor Pryce (2 sacks) were able to dominate the line of scrimmage. DT Kelly Gregg contributed with a picture perfect sack of Vick, a move reminiscent of his wrestling days at OU. On a day where the offense needed a catalyst to get them going, return man BJ Sams put McNair, Lewis and crew in scoring position picking up 212 yards on 6 kick returns. Michael Vick ran for 54 yards on six carries, but was sacked five times for 45 yards in losses and completed only 11 of 27 passes for 127 yards. Baltimore’s offense was able to wear down the depleted Falcons defense dominating time of possession 36:43 to 23:17.
Cincinnati Bengals     (5-5)
The Bengals ended a 3 game skid and defeated the New Orleans Saints in the Louisiana Superdome 31-16. Cincinnati yielded 510 passing yards to Saints QB Drew Brees, but the defense intercepted him 3 times and forced a fumble to stay within 3 games of the AFC North lead. RB Rudi Johnson gained 111 yards on 27 carries. QB Carson Palmer was 14 for 22 passing for 275 yards as the Bengals were able to capitalize on a balanced offensive attack. Palmer and WR Chad Johnson connected for 190 yards and 3 TDs on the day. New Orleans looked like the better team for much of the game, but as it was in its 2 previous losses to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, turnovers were costly. Two promising Saints drives ended with interceptions in the end zone. Kevin Kaesviharn, inserted as a starter at safety for injured Dexter Jackson had 10 tackles including 2 sacks and an interception. Ethan Kilmer, the special team rookie ace nicknamed “Three Way,” delivered a 52-yard interception return for Cincinnati’s first defensive touchdown of the season on just his fourth snap from scrimmage in the NFL during his fourth season of football and first year as a defensive back.
Cleveland Browns     (3-7)
Heartbreaking isn’t a strong enough term to describe the feeling amongst the Browns and their fans after leading the Steelers throughout the game up until the 30 second mark of the 4th quarter .  Yet both will have to collect themselves after the Browns dropped a 24-20 decision at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team spent the entire week talking about getting revenge, and for most of the rainy afternoon it looked like they would get it. But Cleveland’s defense couldn’t stop the Steelers when it mattered most, and the Browns dropped their 6th straight game to their bitter rivals, who have now won 12 of the last 13 between the teams. QB Charlie Frye was 17 of 27 for 224 yards. Browns RB Reuben Droughns sat out with a sprained right foot. His replacement, Jason Wright, had 74 yards on 18 carries.
“We had them,” said Browns TE Kellen Winslow, who engaged in some serious pre-game trash talking with Pittsburgh’s Joey Porter. “We’re in every single game. We just have to find a way to pull it out at the end.”
“This is very disappointing, especially after that 41-0 loss last year,” LB Andra Davis said. “We’ve been looking forward to this one since that clock went to zeroes.” Return man Josh Cribbs returned a kick-off 92 yards for a TD during the contest.
Pittsburgh Steelers     (4-6)
One team’s heartbreak is another team’s joy. The Steelers come-from-behind 24-20 victory with just 32 seconds remaining helped the defending Super  Bowl champions to avoid the cellar dwellar position in the AFC North. QB Ben Roethlisberger shoveled a 4 yard TD pass to RB Willie Parker for the winning score. Roethlisberger made his impromptu flick to Parker after avoiding Browns rookie LB Kamerion Wimbley, who pressured the QB throughout the 2nd half and drilled him several times on the Steelers game-winning drive. Roethlisberger threw 29 passes in the 4th quarter completing 18 and overcoming 3 first half interceptions to rally his team to victory. Parker, whose 1-yard TD run with 4:14 left brought the Steelers within 20-17, gave all the credit to his QB.
“It was completely improvised by Ben,” Parker said. “It was a great play. He’s our leader. We came back when he did it all.”
The victory was the 1st in 5 road games this season for the Steelers. Never at a loss for words for the rival Browns, LB Joey Porter said, “If you talk and lose, you’re still losers. They talk like a different team, but in reality they are not. They had all the breaks, all the bounces, but when it was nail-biting time and you’ve got to make plays; who made them?”
The Steelers did by picking up an astounding 19 first downs in the 4th quarter.
Pittsburgh   (4-6)   at Baltimore   (8-2)
Throw out the records when these teams match up. The rivalry is real and bitter and there is no love lost between opposing players even though there is much mutual respect. Both teams are on winning streaks with Baltimore having won 4 in a row and Pittsburgh its last 2 in a row. This will be a physical contest and will feature big hits from both sides. There is a major reason why the Ravens are 8-2 and the Steelers are 4-6. A quick look at the turnover margin; the Ravens are +12 and the Steelers are -9. That’s a difference in margin of 21 turnovers. You think that makes a difference? The Ravens simply don’t turn the ball over and Ben Roethlisberger creates way too many opportunities with a league worst 17 interceptions. Pittsburgh needs a great performance by Willie Parker to win this one, mainly to keep the ball away from the Ravens offense but also to keep the heat off of his quarterback.
Baltimore   27     Pittsburgh   13 
Cincinnati   (5-5)   at Cleveland   (3-7)
Cincinnati plays its 2nd straight on the road and Cleveland plays its 2nd of 3 straight home games. This past Sunday also marks the 2nd straight game, QB Charlie Frye didn’t throw an interception; and the Browns are a rapidly improving football team. The Bengals created some opportunistic turnovers in their win versus the Saints, and will need to do the same in Cleveland to win this Sunday. The Bengals have their play-off hopes on the line and can’t afford to drop this one. After their devastating loss at home to the Steelers in 2005, the Browns rebounded and won against the Ravens to end the season. ITH likes the Browns in another close contest with the Bengals.
Cleveland   30   Cincinnati   24 
Last Week:            1-2 
Season-to-date:     19-15 

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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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