AFC North Meltdown
Steelers take top spot in AFC North by sitting on the couch.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have taken the lead of the AFC North. With a humiliating Bengals and Ravens loss and devastating Browns loss, the Steelers not playing this Sunday gave them the lead. Thanks to a tie with the Browns week 1, the Steelers went from 3rd to 1st. How did we get here? Let's break it down.
What seemed to be a promising start for the Bengals, has crumbled in a short 2 weeks. After losing for the 7th time in a row to the Steelers the week prior, the Bengals had to face a hot Chiefs team under the lights. The Bengals lost 45-10. Although the Chiefs defense isn't very effective this season, they had a lights out performance. They only allowed 149 passing yards and 65 yards rushing. The Bengals were 4-11 on 3rd down and only made it to the redzone twice. The Chiefs also had 2 defensive/special teams touchdowns on the night. Eric Berry and Justin Houston were out for this game as well which should have helped the Bengals offense.
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals gave up almost 200 yards on the ground due to lack of tackling. They let Patrick Maholmes go 28-39 for over 300 yards. The Chiefs had 33 first downs and went 9-12 on 3rd down. They were averaging almost 8 yards per play, while the Bengals averaged 4.4 yard per play.
On a defense like the Chiefs, you should be much more efficient as a unit offensively. The Chiefs are last in yards/game and 22nd in points allowed/game. They are ranked 30th in rushing yards allowed/game. Offense has clearly been the difference maker for this team.
What does this say about the Bengals? The Bengals need to figure it out quick. Are they still hung up on that Steelers loss? As for right now, the Bengals have become the most inconsistent team in the AFC North.
Better 'Tuck' next time, Baltimore.
After suffering a loss to the Browns and winning the following week against the inconsistent Tennessee Titans, the Ravens had a challenge ahead of them. They played the New Orleans Saints Sunday and lost a heart-breaker 24-23.
Never mind the stats, let's look at the last minute of the game. Joe Flacco led a strong game-ending drive, the Ravens scored a touchdown with :24 seconds left. "Mr. Automatic," Justin Tucker was 222 for 222 on extra points in his career, until Sunday. He missed the game tying extra point. The entire stadium was in awe. Although the loss was against an NFC team, this will come back to bite the Ravens.
Because the Ravens have defeated the Steelers once already, the tiebreaker goes to the Ravens. However, they play the Steelers twice. It seems like the series is split most the time. This loss is a set back for the Ravens because not only do the Steelers have possession of first place, but they also play the Browns in Pittsburgh next week, the Ravens the following week and the Panthers at home. Despite the early season tie, I think the Steelers continue their dominance over the Browns and knowing a split is likely, I say they beat the Ravens as well.
The Ravens play the Panthers at Carolina, the Steelers at home, and the Bengals at home. There is a chance they could lose all three, I find it unlikely. They played a great game against the Saints, Justin Tucker cannot afford to make that mistake again. The Panthers are tough, but I think the Ravens can hang in there especially since the Ravens have the best defense in the NFL. Knowing the Bengals are struggling right now, I say the W goes to Baltimore, but the Bengals have two weeks to figure it out before then. If Baltimore can get a win against the Steelers and the Bengals, they will sweep one and avoid a sweep at the hands of Cincinnati.
The Steelers game is a must win for the Ravens because they will be in a deep hole if they don't, despite the fact that the Steelers have to play the Patriots and Saints down the road. However, the Steelers have beaten the Bengals, not lost to the Browns, and the Ravens have lost to both of them already. History is on the Ravens side, Ben Roethlisberger is 12-10 against the Ravens in his career, but 7 of those losses were in Baltimore. Even if Baltimore ends up with a sweep, they have to beat the Bengals, Browns, Bucs, and the Falcons. If the Steelers can pull out a win against the Saints it will be a tough road for Baltimore.
Welcome back to Earth, Cleveland.
I will give the Browns credit, they are making it interesting. The Cleveland Browns lost a tough one to the Buccaneers on Sunday. They drained a last minute field goal to seal the W. That will come back to hurt the Browns. A team that could realistically be 5-2, is slowly coming back down to Earth. Despite Denzel Ward playing at an elite level, this defense still ranks in the bottom half of the league as well as their offense. The fact that they've been in all these games doesn't make sense on paper. The Browns should have beat the Bucs, Saints, and Steelers but could not pull it out, making that Ravens win look very impressive. That Ravens win and Steelers tie is keeping this team around the playoff hunt. Baker Mayfield is keeping them in games which is all they can ask for.
The Browns have played 8 games in 7 weeks, due to 4 overtime quarters they have played in. I believe the Browns magic is running low, I do think they will have a chance in the games the play the rest of the year. However, I think they will fall just short throughout. I have a lot of respect for this team because they could be so much better, but due to all the extra quarters, scratching and clawing their way to wins every week, I believe they will run out of gas. Let's hope Hue Jackson has his squad conditioned, they are going to need it. But hey, that's why we play the game, could we see an upset when the Browns play the Chiefs? Who knows, this team is fun to watch and they are making things complicated for the entire division.
What have we learned so far? The AFC North is a mess, but I expect nothing less. The adversity these teams go through will make things interesting down the road. These teams are known for blue-collar, smash-mouth football. They give the fans a heart attack every week, but it is fun to watch. The battle on the gridiron is back, and it is in the AFC North.