Street Talk AFC NORTH: WEEK 14

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AFC North




















































Lost 1


























Won 3


























Won 1


























Won 1



Ravens     (9-3)


The Ravens were defeated by the Cincinnati Bengals this past Thursday night 13-7. The loss prevented Baltimore from clinching the AFC North Division title and coupled with the Chargers victory over the Bills on Sunday, dropped them into the 3rd seed in the AFC playoff chase. The team will need to address its kickoff and punt return game, as BJ Sams went down with a season ending injury; a broken fibula in his right leg. The offense did not live up to its success achieved over the 5 games with Brian Billick as the Offensive Coordinator; failing to capitalize on scoring opportunities and placing itself in poor down and distance situations throughout. The offensive line had been improving up to this point, but did not play sharply against the Bengals. RB Jamal Lewis gained 61 yards on only 17 carries and QB Steve McNair completed 26 of 43 pass attempts for 227 yards and 1 TD. Penalties caused the offense to face far too many long down and distance plays as they were only able to cross midfield once in the first 3 quarters of the game. The Ravens hurt their chances for victory by botching a scoring opportunity at the end of the first half. A poor snap by LS Matt Katula caused K Matt Stover to miss a short field goal opportunity. The defense played well overall holding one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses to 13 points and 294 total net yards.


Cincinnati Bengals     (7-5)


The Bengals 13-7 victory over the Baltimore Ravens moved them to within 2 games of the AFC North lead with 4 games remaining on the schedule. The Bengals currently share a 7-5 record along with the Jets, Jaguars, Chiefs, and Broncos in a battle for the 5th and 6th spots in the current AFC playoff picture. The Bengals offensive line was very effective in pass protection consistently picking up Ravens pass rushers and rendering DE Terrell Suggs a non-factor in the contest. WR TJ Houshmandzadeh caught a 40-yard touchdown pass on a flea-flicker, and QB Carson Palmer completed 21 of 34 pass attempts for 234 yards and a TD. A surprisingly stout Bengals defense is keeping them in contention. Even though it missed out on a second straight shutout, the defense did something that no other
Cincinnati unit has done: go seven straight quarters without allowing a point. "I thought we played great in every area tonight," Palmer said. "They didn’t do a whole lot different. We just played better." "In a sense," said Bengals WR Chad Johnson, who had eight catches for 91 yards. "We’re 1-1. We’ll see who’s the better team if we have to face them again in the playoffs."


Cleveland Browns     (4-8)


I assume that most Ravens fans remember QB Derek Anderson. He’s the hero of the 2005 preseason come-from-behind victory against some guys that didn’t make the Washington Redskins roster. Well, he did it for real on Sunday; sparking an improbable victory against the Kansas City Chiefs by the score of 31-28 in overtime in
Cleveland . Playing in their third straight home contest, the Browns rebounded from a gut-wrenching loss to the Steelers and a blowout loss to the Bengals.
Anderson threw two TD passes to TE Steve Heiden in the final 8:55 of regulation and then scrambled 33 yards in overtime to set up K Phil Dawson’s 33-yard field goal for the victorious Browns. Before coming in for the injured QB Charlie Frye,
Anderson had never thrown an NFL pass and had taken only one snap. However, the 23-year-old calmly rallied the Browns, who capped another dysfunctional week with only their second December victory at home since 1999. “This shows what kind of team we have," WR Braylon Edwards said. "When we play on all cylinders and don’t get caught up in everything else, we can play." ITH wonders how this club is only 4-8. They seem much better. 


Pittsburgh Steelers     (5-7)


The Steelers didn’t do much on offense for the second week in a row, but it didn’t make much difference as they capitalized on repeated mistakes by Tampa Bay rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski to beat the Buccaneers 20-3. In a matchup of two of the league’s most disappointing teams, QB Ben Roethlisberger bounced back from one of the worst games of his three-season career to throw TD passes to tight ends Jerame Tuman and Heath Miller — both times after the Bucs (3-9) turned the ball over. The Steelers entered with a league-high 30 turnovers, but this time limited themselves to 1 turnover while Tampa Bay gave away the ball 4 times — and, with it, the game — in losing its sixth in seven games. The Bucs have scored only 5 touchdowns in losing all 6 road games this season. Roethlisberger (12 of 25 for 198 yards) threw his league-high 20th interception less than four minutes in, making him the first Steelers quarterback since Cliff Stoudt in 1983 to throw that many. K Jeff Reed also kicked field goals of 50 and 39 yards. The 50-yarder was the longest in an NFL game in
Pittsburgh since Heinz Field opened in 2001. Several Steelers players will attend funeral services Monday morning in Detroit
for Johnnie Bettis, the father of former star RB Jerome Bettis.




(9-3)   at 
Kansas City (7-5)


Kansas City
is part of a logjam of five 7-5 AFC teams and comes off of a disappointing overtime loss in
Cleveland . They now play the part of the desperate man, needing a win and returning home to Arrowhead. After the Ravens, the Chiefs go on the road to play
San Diego
and rival
and then end their season at home against
Jacksonville . The Chiefs are a very balanced team ranking 14th in total defense and 13th in total offense. QB Trent Green played well against the Browns in recovering from an early season injury. The Chiefs are 3-0 all time versus the Ravens with all 3 wins coming in
Baltimore . The Ravens come off of their loss to the Bengals with the players receiving an additional 5 days of rest from the coach. With the equivalent of a rest for a bye week the Ravens will surely play more inspired football than they did last week, but it won’t be enough to get the victory.


Kansas City
Baltimore    23


(2-10)   at 
Cincinnati (7-5)


Cincinnati has now won 3 in a row and played determinedly in their win against the Ravens. The Raiders are losers of 5 straight games. This game has the appearance of a total mismatch. But this is the NFL and on any given Sunday, you know the rest. The Bengals are 7-19 all time versus the Raiders.
Oakland ranks last in the NFL in total offense and 3rd in total defense. This game will be unexpectedly close and the Raiders will have a chance to win late, but ITH sees
Cincinnati snatching the win.


   19     Oakland


(4-8)   at 
Pittsburgh (5-7)


Now the rest of the AFC North gets to feel what playing with 4 days of rest feels like, and both of these teams are physically banged up. As of now Heinz Ward and Troy Polamalu will not play for the Steelers, and Kellen Winslow is out for the Browns. Derek Anderson may get his first NFL start in this game in place of starting QB Charlie Frye who has a broken wrist and is listed as questionable. Even though the Browns won on Sunday, they managed to allow 28 points. ITH sees the Steelers taking this one with the Browns hanging around for most of the game.


Cleveland    14


ITH Record:   Last week:  1-2, Season: 21-18


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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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