By Jeremy Hritz
After six weeks of play, the Cincinnati Bengals are atop the AFC North standings with a 4-2 record after barely beating a below-average Buffalo Bills team in overtime. And with five more divisional games to go for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as bad as their overall record is, there is still a chance, albeit a slim one, for them to win the divisional title.
Their quest to surge back into contention has to continue this Sunday as the Steelers battle their most-hated rival for the first time this season. Winning this game gets the Steelers a much needed divisional win and bumps the Ravens loss total to four. A loss, however, more than likely is the death-blow to a Steelers playoff berth.
Elsewhere in the AFC North this week, the Bengals will travel to Detroit to take on the Lions, and they will have to match the offensive weapons of Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. Hindering the Bengals efforts on defense could be the loss of cornerback Terrance Newman, who missed two practices this week, though he did practice on Friday.
The Browns will travel to Green Bay, and despite quality play from their defense, their offense will struggle to keep up with the Packers, similar to their inability to keep up with the Lions a week ago.
Hopefully, when the smoke clears at the end of week seven, the Bengals, Browns, and Ravens are all tagged with another loss, while the Steelers gain some ground.
And a quick note: three teams from the AFC North are ranked in the top ten NFL defenses. In order, those teams are: sixth, Pittsburgh, seventh, Cleveland, and eighth, Cincinnati.
The Bengals won in overtime last week against the Bills, 27-24, against an inexperienced quarterback in Thad Lewis.
Not necessarily the mark of a dominant team.
The Bengals defense gave up two big touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of 22 and 40 yards and came close to blowing the win. In a dogfight, they had to rely on a Mike Nugent 40-yard field goal in overtime to squeak it out.
Andy Dalton was much better in this game than he has been in his previous contests as he finished 26 of 40 for 337 yards and three touchdowns. If the Bengals can get that type of production from him weekly, they could possibly match their offseason hype.
The Ravens lost a close contest to the Packers, 19-17, a game in which the Ravens gave up 438 yards of offense, including 140 yards on the ground. Conversely, the Ravens only rushed for 47 yards and a 2.1 yards per carry average. Had it not been for the play of Joe Flacco, who threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns, this game would not have been close.
Like the Steelers, the Ravens have troubles on the offensive line, despite trading for tackle Eugene Monroe from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Against the Packers, the beleaguered Ravens offensive line gave up five sacks, stifling any chance for their offense to establish consistency. Those five sacks bring their total sacks surrendered this season to 19.
The Browns dropped their contest against the Lions last week at home, 31-17, as Brandon Weedon played like Brandon Weedon, throwing two interceptions. It’s safe to say that as long as Weedon is the starter in Cleveland, it’s going to be more of the same thing, as his propensity to make mistakes negates any positive plays that he creates.
While the Browns defense has been solid this year, they only got to Matthew Stafford once and allowed him to throw for four touchdowns. While Cleveland was up 17-7 in the first half, they imploded in the second, allowing 24 unanswered points.
It appears that this Browns squad that looked promising earlier in the season is still another season away.
|2013 AFC North Standings||Week 7 Schedule||Week 8 Schedule|
|Ravens: 3-3, 1-0 Division||Bengals @ Lions, 1:00 PM||Browns @ Chiefs, 1:00 PM|
|Browns: 3-3, 1-1 Division||Ravens @ Steelers, 4:25 PM||Jets @ Bengals, 4:05 PM|
|Bengals: 4-2, 1-1 Division||Browns @ Packers, 4:25 PM||Steelers @ Raiders, 4:05 PM|
|Steelers: 1-4, 0-1 Division||Bye Week: Ravens|
|AFC North Statistical Leaders|
|Leading Passer (yardage)||Joe Flacco, Ravens – 136/235, 1702 yards, 7 touchdowns, 8 interceptions (7th in the NFL)|
|Leading Rusher (yardage)||BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals – 89 carries, 295 yards, 3 touchdowns (21st in the NFL)|
|Leading Receiver (yardage)||Torrey Smith, Ravens – 28 catches, 568 yards, 1 touchdown (4th in the NFL)|
|Sack Leader||Terrell Suggs, Ravens – 7 sacks (4th in the NFL)|
|Interception Leader||Several tied with 2|
|Top Offense||Cincinnati Bengals – 355.7 yards per game (12th in the NFL)|
|Top Defense||Pittsburgh Steelers – 310.8 yards per game (6th in the NFL)|