Ohio Teams Fall, Pitt Zombies Rise

Rock Spring Financial's In The Hood Ohio Teams Fall, Pitt Zombies Rise

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Week 5 gave us the most exciting slate of games in the AFC North we’ve seen so far this season, with drama levels higher than Seth Rogen on a vacation to Amsterdam. The Ravens pulled off the biggest comeback of the Lamar Jackson era on Monday Night Football against our old pals the Indianapolis Colts, and for the other three squads things weren’t any easier. There were two all-important victories, two heartbreaking losses, and overall it seems as if this race may end up being a little tighter than we all thought even a week ago.

No messing around today, let’s roll up our sleeves and get right to it!

Cleveland Browns

The Browns entered SoFi Stadium on Sunday for their tilt with the Los Angeles Chargers flaunting one of the league’s best, most dominant defenses. Unfortunately for them, they had yet to face anyone playing at the level Justin Herbert currently is, and he drove that point home all day long.

Credit to Cleveland’s offense, who did manage to keep pace with the Chargers all day and even had a 27-21 lead going into the 4th quarter. This one was the true definition of a shootout, but 26 points in the final 15 minutes of the game was just too much to overcome for Baker Mayfield and company in a 47-42 loss.

Coach Kevin Stefansky again had more than one controversial decision in this game. It almost seemed as if he was too aggressive in unnecessary moments, while being too conversative in moments where it was time to reach out and take it. It started with just over eight minutes left in the 2nd quarter, when in a 13-10 game he lined the offense up to go for it on 4th-and-2 from the Chargers 17-yard line. To his credit, the play call was correct, as Baker Mayfield had a wide open Odell Beckham Jr. across the middle for a successful conversion. Unfortunately, Beckham simply flat out dropped the ball.

On a day where the offense put up 42 points, Beckham only accounted for two catches and 20 yards when the final whistle blew. At this point, it would almost be more shocking if the Browns didn’t attempt to move on from him before the trade deadline than if they shipped him off tomorrow.

Later on in the 4th quarter with a 42-41 lead, the Browns had a 3rd-and-9 from their own 15 and were in desperate need of a first down. Had they picked up the first down, they likely would be 4-1 right now, but Stefansky dialed up a run off the left tackle that only picked up three yards. An ultra-conservative call, essentially putting the ball in the hands of a defense that was already picked apart all day long.

Overall the Browns will be just fine; this was a heavyweight fight that could’ve gone either way, and this time Los Angeles were the victors. Things certainly won’t get much easier this week for them though, as a date with the undefeated Arizona Cardinals is on tap for Sunday. In a division with so many heavy hitters at the moment, the last thing they want to do is fall to 3-3.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The funeral plans will have to be postponed for at least another week. The Steelers came out in front of their home crowd on Sunday and pulled out a gutsy 27-19 win against the Denver Broncos. Pittsburgh again scored on their opening possession via a long touchdown from Ben Roethlisberger to Diontae Johnson, only this time they continued to put the pedal to the metal.

Roethlisberger had his best game of the season when he needed it most, completing 60% of his passes on the day for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Najee Harris continues to find his groove in the rushing game more and more by the week, accounting for over 120 yards and a score. He’s also shown already that he’s a dynamic weapon in the passing game, setting him up to potentially be one of the league’s best for years to come.

The defense did their part for most of the day, but a pair of late touchdowns from Denver would have the Steelers sweating this one out until the game’s final play. Right now the Steelers’ biggest issue is their inability to play a complete game of football. We’ve seen them be in ball games every single week, and come out firing on all cylinders, just to totally collapse later on in the game. They were almost the victim of those circumstances yet again this week, but made just enough plays to ultimately squeak out the much needed W.

They didn’t come out completely unscathed from an injury standpoint though. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster injured his shoulder during the second quarter of this game, and will now miss the rest of the season. You always hate to see injuries, especially for guys on a one-year “prove it” contract. Hopefully JuJu can get back to full strength much sooner than later.

Up next for the Steelers is a Sunday night matchup against the Geno Smith-led Seattle Seahawks. For any of you who had that sentence on your “unlikely NFL circumstances” bingo card this season, good on you. With this game presents an opportunity for the Steelers to climb back to .500 and put themselves right back in the thick of the AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals

We all know there are no moral victories in the NFL, but if there were, Sunday’s game against the Packers would’ve been just that for the Bengals. A wild overtime game that saw a whopping five missed field goals would ultimately end in a 25-22 Green Bay victory, but the Bengals had more than one chance to come out on the winning end themselves.

Joe Burrow had an up-and-down day. He showed extreme levels of maturity in the 4th quarter as he orchestrated a game-tying touchdown drive, and then put his team in position to win the game in regulation before Evan McPherson missed the go-ahead kick. He would do that again in overtime with a similar result, albeit after throwing an inexcusable interception on the first play of the period that should have ended the game (if not for a Green Bay missed field goal).

The defense was again solid overall. They did allow Davante Adams to have an absolutely massive 200-yard receiving day, but any time you can hold Aaron Rodgers and the gang to only 25 points in four and a half quarters you have to feel OK. They also managed to keep Green Bay out of the end zone for the entire second half, holding them to field goal tries on every possession and implementing the “bend, don’t break” method.

The Bengals are holding their heads as high as you possibly can after a loss this week, and at 3-2 they’re still firmly above preseason expectations at the moment. Up next is a get-right game in the form of the Detroit Lions, but a matchup that they certainly can’t take lightly. If the offense continues to play the way that they have though, it’s unlikely they’ll be needing a 66-yard field goal to walk away at 4-2.

Wrap Up

So in conclusion: Lamar Jackson is Superman, Odell needs a new home, the dead have begun to rise in Pittsburgh, and the Packers were “dey.” It’ll be tough to match last week’s excitement in the AFC North come Sunday, but some intriguing matchups on tap could surely give it a run for its money. We’ll see if the Ravens can continue to build their lead atop the division, or if the other teams will respond with return jabs of their own in the standings.

Until then, have a great week and we’ll see you back next time for another spin around the AFC North.

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About Ronald Toothe

Ronald Toothe has been a supporter of the Baltimore Ravens for 20+ years, and has been covering the team since 2020. From the moment he saw a pass tip off the hands of Eddie George into the waiting arms of Ray Lewis during the 2000 playoffs, he knew he was hooked for life. Ronald began his career in sports media behind the microphone as a professional wrestling color commentator before taking a similar role during football games at his high school alma mater. While he still enjoys the occasional opportunity to pick up a headset, his biggest passion today is covering the team he loves most. More from Ronald Toothe
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