By Jeremy Hritz
As it stands at the week five checkpoint in the 2013 NFL season, the AFC North is substandard. The combined record of the North teams is a sub-500 7-10, lowlighted by the 0-4 Pittsburgh Steelers. Strangely enough, the Cleveland Browns are holding down the 1st place spot with a 3-2 record, after their win on Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills, 37-24.
The good news for the Steelers, if there even is such a thing right now, is that they have only played one divisional game, and ultimately, the North is wide open. But the Steelers winning the division, based on their play in the first four games seems a pipe dream, and their focus at this moment is on regrouping and earning their first victory of the season next weekend against the Jets.
The Browns are in first place after beating the Bills on Thursday night, and they did so with Brandon Weedon at quarterback after Brian Hoyer was lost for the season with an ACL tear. Hoyer was playing well before the injury, and with Weedon stepping back into the starting role, the Browns offense was not as effective as it was with Hoyer.
The Browns defense continued to play well, recording four sacks, one interception, and holding the Bills to only five third down conversions. Barkevious Mingo, though he did not record a sack, pressured the Bills quarterbacks, and his speed looks to be an asset that will only make the Browns defense better as the year goes on.
Additionally, punt returner Travis Benjamin showed how much of a threat that he is, returning a punt 79 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Benjamin is lightning fast and can flip the field in a heartbeat.
The Browns are only two wins away from matching their total from a season ago.
The Ravens are in somewhat of the same predicament that the Steelers are in because they have not proven that they are able to protect Joe Flacco. This past week for the Ravens was a nightmare, as they lost to the Bills 23-20. The Bills defense picked off five Flacco passes and sacked him four times, rendering the Ravens offense inefficient, as they only converted three of 16 third downs. And the running game, led by Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, struggled to establish any sort of a rhythm, rushing for only 24 yards.
To combat the issues that the Ravens are having on the offensive line, they traded their 2014 fourth and fifth round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Eugene Monroe, who is expected to take over the starting left tackle spot for the struggling Bryant McKinnie. If the Ravens want to retain Monroe, who was the Jaguars first round draft pick in 2009, they will have to work out a deal with him as he will become a free agent at the end of the season.
The Bengals are not living up to their offseason hype, and their 17-6 loss to the Browns a week ago put on display their offensive woes. Andy Dalton continues to just be average, throwing for zero touchdowns and one interception. Additionally, AJ Green’s longest reception in the game was only 17 yards, and in total, the Bengals were only able to generate 266 total yards against the Browns defense. If Dalton continues to be nothing more than a game manager as he has been in his first two seasons, the Bengals cannot be the threat that they were expected to be this offseason.
They will get an opportunity to make the debacle against the Browns nothing more than a bad memory with a win over the undefeated New England Patriots on Sunday.
|2013 AFC North Standings||Week 5 Schedule||Week 6 Schedule|
|Browns: 3-2, 1-1 Division||Browns 37, Bills 24 (Thursday)||Lions @ Browns, 1:00 PM|
|Ravens: 2-2, 1-0 Division||Ravens @ Dolphins, 1:00 PM||Packers @ Ravens, 1:00 PM|
|Bengals: 2-2, 1-1 Division||Patriots @ Bengals, 1:00 PM||Bengals @ Bills, 1:00 PM|
|Steelers: 0-4, 0-1 Division||Steelers, Bye Week||Steelers @ Jets, 1:00 PM|
|AFC North Statistical Leaders|
|Leading Passer||Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – 103/162, 1231 yards, 5 touchdowns, 5 interceptions (5th in the NFL)|
|Leading Rusher||Bernard Pierce, Ravens – 56 carries, 151 yards, 2 touchdowns (29th in the NFL)|
|Leading Receiver||Antonio Brown, Steelers – 32 catches, 412 yards, 2 touchdowns (5th in the NFL)|
|Sack Leader||Terrell Suggs, Ravens – 4 sacks (7th in the NFL)|
|Interception Leader||Daryl Smith, Ravens – 2 interceptions (4th in the NFL)|
|Top Offense||Pittsburgh Steelers – 341.2 yards per game (18th in the NFL)|
|Top Defense||Cleveland Browns – 301.8 yards per game (5th in the NFL)|