By Jeremy Hritz
What was expected to be a tough weekend for the AFC North only turned out to be a tough weekend for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bengals edged the Packers in a sloppy, turnover fest.
The Ravens were stout on defense and thumped the Texans.
And Brian Hoyer and the Browns won late against the Vikings.
And now the Steelers are in the unfamiliar and uncomfortable position of staring upwards at their three divisional foes.
The schedule isn’t terribly difficult for the AFC North this weekend, and there is only one divisional contest on tap between the Bengals and the Browns. While the Browns upsetting the Bengals would help the Steelers get back in the mix should they resume winning, it is unlikely to happen, and it seems likely that the Ravens will move to 3-1 after beating up on the Bills and their rookie quarterback.
If the Steelers drop this weekend’s game against the Vikings, it is safe to say that competing for the AFC North title is over, even though they are playing an NFC team, as their divisional opponents are facing weak competition this weekend.
During the Steelers bye week however, things will get tougher for the Bengals and Ravens against the Patriots and the Dolphins.
The Bengals beat the Packers last Sunday 34-30, sealing the win with a 58 yard fumble return by Terence Newman. However, the Bengals did not play well, turning over the football four times, though the Packers did the same. Andy Dalton was efficient again, though he was responsible for two turnovers of his own, an interception and a fumble, and had it not been for his defense, the Bengals would have lost the game. The Bengals still do not have the look of a dominant team, though they keep finding ways to win in spite of their mistakes.
In other Bengals news, Pacman Jones was charged with disorderly conduct on Monday morning following the game. How this impacts his tenure with the team moving forward is unknown.
The Ravens may have an offense that is just as bad as the Steelers, because for the second week straight, they were unable to establish a rhythm. However, the Ravens offense was able to go 13 of 18 on third downs in the second half, making the crucial plays necessary to sustain drives. Those conversions combined with an interception return for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown put the Texans in too much of a hole for them to overcome, as their offense was just as bad as the Ravens, while the Ravens defense was smothering.
Though Jacoby Jones is out currently with a knee injury, he made the news this week by getting blasted in the head by a stripper with a bottle of champagne, stirring some questions about the team’s leadership, leading to some back and forth between Joe Flacco and former Raven Ray Lewis.
Could there be some cracks in the foundation of this Ravens team?
The Browns won an exciting game against the Vikings last weekend with Hoyer making his first start, completing 30 of 54 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns. The other side of that was that Hoyer also threw three interceptions. Tight end Jordan Cameron continues to be a beast at tight end, as he caught three touchdown passes, including the game winner.
Most importantly for the Browns, they held Adrian Peterson in check, allowing him to rush for only 88 yards on 25 carries. If the Browns can capitalize on their momentum this weekend against the Bengals in Cleveland, it will send the message that they are no longer a pushover.
|2013 AFC North Standings||Week 4 Schedule||Week 5 Schedule|
|Team||Overall||Division||Steelers vs. Vikings, 1:00 PM||Steelers, Bye Week|
|1. Bengals||2-1||1-0||Ravens at Bills, 1:00 PM||Bills at Browns, Thursday Night – 8:25 PM|
|2. Ravens||2-1||1-0||Bengals at Browns, 1:00 PM||Patriots at Bengals, 1:00 PM|
|3. Browns||1-2||0-1||Ravens at Dolphins, 1:00 PM|
|AFC North Statistical Leaders|
|Leading Passer||*Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers – 67/111, 848 yards, 4 touchdowns, 4 interceptions (10th in the NFL)|
|Leading Rusher||Bernard Pierce – Baltimore Ravens – 52 carries, 144 yards, 2 touchdowns (29th in the NFL)|
|Leading Receiver||*Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers – 20 receptions, 324 yards, 2 touchdowns (8th in the NFL)|
|Sack Leader||Desmond Bryant – Cleveland Browns – 3.5 sacks (7th in the NFL)|
|Interception Leader||Several tied with 1 interception|
|Top Offense||Cincinnati Bengals – 348 yards per game (16th in the NFL)|
|Top Defense||*Pittsburgh Steelers – 298 yards per game (5th in the NFL)|