By Jeremy Hritz
As it currently stands, the loss total in the AFC North (17) now exceeds its wins (14), and the strength of the division took another hit when the outstanding Geno Atkins suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Cincinnati Bengals 22-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Prior to the Bengals frustrating loss, they pounded the New York Jets, 49-9, and provided more reasons as to why they should be considered a serious contender for a championship. In their contest against the Jets, they not only dominated on defense, intercepting two passes for touchdowns, sacking Geno Smith four times, and only allowing 240 yards, they also were sharp on offense through the air, as Andy Dalton posted another excellent game, throwing for career-high five touchdowns, including four to second-year receiver Marvin Jones, who hauled in eight passes for 122 yards. It was a game in which the Bengals started fast and finished strong and provided hope that some semblance of consistency had been achieved.
But then came Halloween Night.
Just when it seemed that the Bengals had hit their stride, Dalton reverted back to his inconsistent ways and threw three interceptions, one being a pick six, and took a sack in the end zone in overtime that ultimately lost the game. In total, Dalton was sacked five times on the night, and though he threw for 338 yards, he could not make the play that the Bengals needed to get their seventh win.
Despite the loss, the Bengals showed the mark of an improved team during their four-game win streak, and it still appears to be their division to lose.
The Cleveland Browns played the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs intensely and nearly scored an upset, but ultimately the Chiefs defense was too stout and wore out the Browns.
Jason Campbell played well in his first game as the Browns starter, throwing for 293 yards and two touchdowns, but his team could not generate anything in the running game. And if you are keeping track, Barkevious Mingo recorded his fourth sack against the Chiefs, while Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Jarvis Jones still has yet to record one.
This week, the Baltimore Ravens return from their bye week, a good sign for them as they are 10-1 since 2002 following their week off. However, they will be facing a Browns team in Cleveland that is looking to end its three game losing streak and that is tired of being bullied when it comes to playing the Ravens (see Joe Haden’s comments from earlier this week).
There are nine games remaining in the Steelers season, and every one that they play and that their divisional opponents plays from here to week 17 takes on that much more meaning. And while it seems a safe bet to write the Steelers off and award the division to the Bengals, there is still plenty of football to be played. While the playoffs may be out of the question, these remaining games are the perfect opportunities to see just what type of players make up the Steelers roster.
The battle for the North continues.
|2013 AFC North Standings||Week 8 Schedule||Week 9 Schedule|
|1. Bengals||6-3, 1-1 Division||Dolphins 22, Bengals 20||Bengals @ Ravens, 1:00 PM|
|2. Ravens||3-4, 1-1 Division||Ravens @ Browns, 4:25 PM||Bengals @ Ravens, 1:00 PM|
|3. Browns||3-5, 1-1 Division||Ravens @ Browns, 4:25 PM||Bye Week: Browns|
|4. Steelers||2-5, 1-1 Division||Steelers @ Patriots, 4:25 PM||Bills @ Steelers, 1:00 PM|
|AFC North Statistical Leaders|
|Leading Passer||Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals - 215/332, 2587 yards, 16 touchdowns, 10 interceptions (3rd in the NFL)|
|Leading Rusher||BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Cincinnati Bengals - 131 carries, 424 yards, 3 touchdowns (18th in the NFL)|
|Leading Receiver||AJ Green – Cincinnati Bengals - 57 receptions, 862 yards, 5 touchdown (1st in the NFL)|
|Sack Leader||Terrell Suggs – Baltimore Ravens – 8 sacks (5th in the NFL)|
|Interception Leader||Several tied with 2 interceptions|
|Top Offense||Cincinnati Bengals – 380.2 yards per game (9th in the NFL)|