Dalton Does It Against the Lions: The State Of The AFC North

By Jeremy Hritz

Week seven saw the Cincinnati Bengals put a slight bit of distance between themselves and their AFC North opponents, as they beat the Detroit Lions in the last seconds, 27-24. The Cleveland Browns, under the questionable leadership of Brandon Weedon, were abysmal, clunking to a 31-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers. And the Baltimore Ravens earned their fourth loss of the season as they were upended by the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

While it may look like the Bengals have a significant advantage moving forward as far as the divisional crown is concerned, they have difficult games yet against the Ravens twice, the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Indianapolis Colts, and even the New York Jets this weekend.

It is still too early to crown a winner, and there is still too much football to be played before the final landing spots for North teams are determined, and hopefully, the Steelers can build on their successes from the last two weeks to get themselves back into the conversation.

The biggest news outside of the Steelers victory over the Ravens from week seven was the performance of Bengals quarterback, Andy Dalton.

Dalton was excellent against the Lions, completing 70% of his passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns and a passer rating of 135.9. If the Bengals can get that type of play from Dalton consistently, they can be a team that can be a legitimate threat in the postseason. The question will be whether or not Dalton can maintain this type of performance throughout the season, as he has not demonstrated throughout his career that he can be consistent.

This weekend, it seems that the Browns don’t have any shot against the Chiefs in Kansas City, and as far as the Bengals are concerned, they will face a test against a strong defensive Jets team that won a big game against the New England Patriots. To keep pace in the division, the Steelers need the Jets to pull off another upset in Cincinnati.

In other news in the AFC North news, Jason Campbell has been named the starting quarterback for the Browns with Weedon heading back to the bench, and more than likely, Weedon’s tenure in Cleveland as a starter is over, barring major injury to Campbell. It is safe to say that the Browns will be in the market for a quarterback to this offseason, either through the draft or in free agency.

Hopefully, when the conclusion of week eight arrives, the Steelers have gained more ground in the division, not only through a win of their own, but also through losses by the Browns and Bengals.

Let the climb continue.

2013 AFC North StandingsWeek 8 ScheduleWeek 9 Schedule
1. Bengals5-2, 1-1 DivisionBrowns @ Chiefs, 1:00 PMBengals @ Dolphins, 8:25 PM – Thursday Night
2. Ravens3-4, 1-1 DivisionJets @ Bengals, 4:05 PMRavens @ Browns, 4:25 PM
3. Browns53-4, 1-1 DivisionSteelers @ Raiders, 4:05 PMSteelers @ Patriots, 4:25 PM
4. Steelers2-4, 1-1 DivisionBye Week: Ravens
AFC North Statistical Leaders
Leading PasserAndy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals – 164/249, 1924 yards, 11 touchdowns, 6 interceptions (6th in the NFL)
Leading RusherBenJarvus Green-Ellis – Cincinnati Bengals – 99 carries, 319 yards, 3 touchdowns (23rd in the NFL)
Leading ReceiverTorrey Smith – Baltimore Ravens – 31 receptions, 629 yards, 1 touchdown (1st in the NFL)
Sack LeaderTerrell Suggs – Baltimore Ravens – 8 sacks (5th in the NFL)
Interception LeaderSeveral tied with 2 interceptions
Top OffenseCincinnati Bengals – 365 yards per game (12th in the NFL)
Top DefensePittsburgh Steelers – 306.8 yards per game (6th in the NFL)