Bengals And Ravens Have Tough Tests On Sunday: The State Of The AFC North

By Jeremy Hritz

The AFC North has not exactly been impressive after two weeks, and though the Cincinnati Bengals seem to possess a formidable arsenal, they didn’t exactly put on a powerful display against a reeling Pittsburgh Steelers bunch this past Monday Night. This is still a division that is wide open, and after play this Sunday, it can be assumed it will be much of the same.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals earned a big divisional win against the Steelers on Monday Night, and it appears that their rookies in Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard are going to be offensive contributors this year. However, they were neither dominant nor explosive in their win against the Steelers, who are still trying to figure things out. With a contest this week coming up against the Green Bay Packers, the Bengals will need to be much better if the plan on going 2-1. However, the match-up between their defensive line and the offensive line of the Packers may play into their favor.

Andy Dalton still has not proved that he can carry his team, and until he does, the Bengals are still a big question mark. Dalton will get a chance this weekend to outduel one of the best in the league in Aaron Rodgers, but if this one is a shootout, the advantage goes to Green Bay.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens didn’t exactly trounce the Cleveland Browns this past weekend, and though their defense hammered Brandon Weedon, they didn’t show that they are a powerhouse by any stretch.

This weekend against the Houston Texans, they may be without the services of Ray Rice, who is nursing a hip injury. Rice hasn’t exactly set the world on fire this season, and he has been outperformed by fellow running back Bernard Pierce. And in case you haven’t heard, Rice in all of his classiness was accused of spitting on Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor.

Ed Reed has yet to play a snap for the Texans, and it is uncertain whether or not he will be a go this weekend in Baltimore when the Ravens induct future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis into the Ring of Honor.

In other Ravens news, rookie safety Matt Elam has been named the starter over Michael Huff.

The Ravens will have to play much better against the Texans than they did against the Browns if they want to earn their second victory.

Cleveland Browns

Big news in the Cleveland Browns camp this week as they traded away Trent Richardson after only one year and two games into a new season. Richardson was projected to be the team’s featured runner for several years, but now the Browns offense has become perhaps even more inept than the Steelers of the first two weeks of the 2013 NFL season. The Browns have since added the aged veteran Willis McGahee to be their featured runner for the remainder of the year.

Weedon will not play this weekend against the Minnesota Vikings, and former Steelers backup quarterback Brian Hoyer will get the call as the quarterback carousel continues to revolve in Cleveland.

The bright spot for the Browns has been their defense which is currently ranked 5th overall in the NFL, 3rd against the run and 12th against the pass. Their defense is what kept them in the game against the Ravens and is what will give them a chance to be competitive at a minimum in 2013.

When all is said and done this week, it is not difficult to imagine the Steelers in a tie for first place with the Bengals and the Ravens if they get the win against the Bears on Sunday Night, while the Browns will more than likely fall to 0-3.

2013 AFC North Standings Week 3 Schedule Week 4 Schedule
1. Bengals, 1-1 (defeated Steelers, 20-10) Browns @ Vikings, 1:00 PM Steelers @ Vikings (London), 1:00 PM
2. Ravens, 1-1 Texans @ Ravens, 1:00 PM Ravens @ Bills, 1:00 PM
3. Browns, 0-2 Packers @ Bengals, 1:00 PM Bengals @ Browns, 1:00 PM
4. Steelers, 0-2 Bears @ Steelers, 8:30 PM
AFC North Statistical Leaders
Leading Passer Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens – 56/95, 573 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions (15th in the NFL)
Leading Rusher BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals – 36 carries, 100 yards, 1 touchdown (25th in the NFL)
Leading Receiver AJ Green, Cincinnati Bengals – 15 catches, 203 yards, 2 touchdowns (7th in the NFL)
Sack Leader Desmond Bryant, DE – Cleveland Browns – 2.5 sacks (8th in the NFL)
Interception Leader Several tied with 1 interception
Top Offense Cincinnati Bengals – 373.5 yards per game (12th in the NFL)
Top Defense Cleveland Browns – 285.5 yards per game (5th in the NFL)
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