Welcome to the AFC North report, which will be covered by myself all season long. I’ll be bringing you news and notes about the AFC North’s four teams as often as I can, daily if I can.
In our first edition, I’ve jotted down a few news and notes that caught my eye from this week’s games.
Bengals – 27 @ Bills – 24
- The Bengals have to be much better on the road. This week marked their first road win of the season after losses against the Bears and Browns. They controlled the game for much of the duration, but allowed inexperienced practice squad player Thad Lewis to lead a comeback with a couple 4th quarter TDs to force an overtime period.
- Offensively, the Bengals were solid all the way around. They ran the ball effectively with BenJarvus Green-Ellis (18-86) and Gio Bernard was effective in the passing game with 6 catches for 72 yards and a TD.
- Andy Dalton was efficient, outside of a horrible interception early in the game. He completed passes to 8 different receivers and spreading the love in the endzone, with TD catches to 3 seperate receivers.
- The Bengals also showed the ability to get creative, getting 34 yards on a run by Marvin Jones.
- Defensively, the Bengals consistently got to Lewis and sacked him for 5 times, although Lewis had an efficient game overall.
- The real disappointing part about the Bengals defensively was the coverage breakdowns in the 4th quarter, which is due to poor play calling and execution combined. Lewis probably also is owed his due as he often kept plays alive and took advantage of Bengals miscues down the stretch.
Steelers – 19 @ Jets – 6
- Before the game even started, the Steelers took a hit to an already depleted and struggling offensive line, with recently acquired LT Levi Brown suffering a triceps injury during pre-game warmups. The injury is feared to end his season. TE David Johnson is also expected to be done for the season with a wrist injury suffered early in the game.
- Shadowed by a late game stop by the Jets at the goal line, the Steelers are going to continue to struggle in the red zone with their inept offensive line/running game.
- Even though the stats may not show it, I thought Le’Veon Bell looked good running the ball. He showed good burst and should be a cog in the running game for years to come, especially once the offensive line improves, which I think will be a main focus this offseason.
- Although the sack totals don’t show it, the Steelers do a decent job at putting pressure on the QB and they got after Geno Smith to a fair degree, but did a solid job of containing him.
- The Steelers took advantage of turnover-prone Geno Smith by forcing a couple picks. The game was closer than the score indicated, but they made plays when they counted.
- I think the Steelers are the best 1 win football team right now and in a weak division with a schedule that isn’t particularly daunting, I wouldn’t rule them out from making a push for the playoffs. If the Bengals don’t run away with it, I think we could very well see a 9-7 team emerge from the north.
Packers – 19 @ Ravens – 17
- This was a perfect opportunity to make a statement win at home against a good team, instead, they struggled to move the ball all day and couldn’t protect Joe Flacco.
- With Torrey Smith the only fairly consistent option in the passing game, I’m surprised nearly every week with the Ravens’ lack of ability to get the ball to Ray Rice in creative ways, mainly getting him the ball in space. While they haven’t been able to move the ball on the ground, why not utilize your best offensive player through the air?
- The Ravens were brutal on third down, going a mere 2-14. They also were flagged 4 times for false starts, which doesn’t happen to playoff teams at home.
- It was opposite day for the defense. The usually stout run defense was inadequate, and the average pass defense was pretty effective despite giving up over 300 yards through the air. The front seven were in Aaron Rodgers‘ grill all day, leading to uncomfortable day for the Packers’ QB.
- I know I’m tough on the Ravens, but I think they can be so much better. The solid defense is still there, but the offense just can’t consistently move the ball against good teams.
- They need to get Rice more involved in the passing game. The run game just isn’t working. I know in the past they’ve liked to ‘keep him fresh’ for the playoffs, but at this rate, they aren’t getting there anyway.
Detroit – 31 @ Browns – 17
- The Browns defense is usually pretty good, but the offense lost the time of possession battle by nearly 7 minutes and had 3 straight 3-and-outs in the third quarter, which wore the defense down and likely made a contribution to the 17 points the Lions scored in the 4th quarter.
- To double up on that point, the defense is only going to go as far as the offense takes them. We saw the same thing last year with the Chiefs. Believe me, even though the Chiefs’ D took a major step forward this year, they were solid last year, but couldn’t take advantage of it thanks to their inept offense. We saw just how good the Browns can be on defense with Hoyer at QB, Weeden needs to find ways to at least get a few first downs here and there when the offense is struggling.
- This is just a general thought, but if they can upgrade at the QB position this offseason, they could make a similar turnaround as the Chiefs.
- As far as Calvin Johnson goes, healthy or not (and I thought he looked fine), Joe Haden did a fantastic job covering him, holding him to 3 catches for 25 yards on 8 targets.
- Once again, the Browns failed to establish a running game. The Lions don’t have a great run D, but the Browns got no push up front whatsoever.
- We saw why the Browns are going to miss Hoyer immensely. They have enough weapons to make a below average QB look decent, but Hoyer has the athletic ability to make things happen when the receivers aren’t.
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