Scary Ravens Pass Rush Will Harass Rodgers: The State Of The AFC North

By Jeremy Hritz

The Bye Week is over, and we are still trying to figure out how the Pittsburgh Steelers can correct their ills and return to their winning ways. With that being said, we have to look at all areas to see if we can figure out just what it is that is leading to the Steelers poor play.

And then it hit me.

While it may be a bit superstitious, has anyone else noticed that ever since Dave and Dave changed the intro music to the Terrible Podcast, the Steelers have been a train wreck? Since the Steelers are looking at all possible changes for improvement, maybe the return of the old school, crushing metal intro to the TP can stir up some good luck.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

In all seriousness, it appears that the AFC North is a three horse race as I commented before week one, unfortunately that race does not include the Steelers. The Ravens, Browns, and Bengals are all knotted up with 3-2 records, but the Ravens hold the advantage being 1-0 in the division.

The AFC North teams all have their warts, and there doesn’t appear to be a dominant squad in the bunch. The Ravens can’t protect Joe Flacco and are struggling on offense; Brandon Weedon is a liability for the Browns; and as long as the Bengals are led by Andy Dalton, they will never be more than a one and done team in the playoffs.

With Baltimore’s defense beginning to surge and to bludgeon quarterbacks, they are currently the slight favorite to win the North. If they can find a way to resolve their offensive issues, they can be a dangerous team.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens won a close game last Sunday in Miami, 23-20, as Ray Rice showed glimpses of a return to form following his hip injury, rushing for 74 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens defense also recorded six sacks against Ryan Tannehill, boosting the team’s record to 3-2.

Terrell Suggs currently has seven sacks which is good for fourth in the NFL, and the Ravens are second in the league in sacks behind the Kansas City Chiefs with 19. Sure, their totals were inflated when they played against the awful Dolphins offensive line, but their ability to pressure quarterbacks is undeniable.

The Ravens will be challenged this weekend against Green Bay, and while Aaron Rodgers is a much better quarterback than Flacco, the fact that his offensive line is a weakness tilts the scales in the favor of the Ravens. If Suggs and company can get to Rodgers, the Ravens should improve to 4-2 before heading to Pittsburgh next week.

Steelers fans will be holding their collective breath that Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t get broken in half next weekend by the Ravens pass rush.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns are coming off of an extended break following their win against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday Night and are riding a three game winning streak into their contest against the Lions on Sunday in Cleveland.

With Weedon now the starting quarterback, the offense will struggle to score points, barring a miraculous improvement. Throw in the fact that a worn and torn Willis McGahee is the Browns featured running back, and it is difficult to imagine the Browns matching the offense of the Lions.

Regardless, the Browns defense is solid and will keep them in games, and it could be the difference this weekend.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals took out the undefeated New England Patriots last weekend, 13-6, to give them their first signature win of the season. In that contest, the Bengals defense broke Tom Brady’s streak of 52 straight games with a touchdown pass. More importantly, the Bengals moved to 3-2 and kept pace with the Ravens and Browns.

This weekend, the Bengals travel to Buffalo to take on a Bills team that is without its starting quarterback and that will take the field with Thaddeus Lewis at the helm, the same Lewis that started against the Steelers in the final game of the season in 2012 for the Browns. Hardly an offensive juggernaut, a Lewis-led Bills offense will struggle against a formidable Bengals defensive line, yet as long as Dalton is the signal caller for the Bengals, there still is hope for the Bills. The Bengals should win this game, but the inconsistency of Dalton gives the Bills a chance.

2013 AFC North Standings Week 6 Schedule Week 7 Schedule
Ravens: 3-2, 1-0 Division Steelers @ Jets, 1:00 PM Bengals @ Lions, 1:00 PM
Browns: 3-2, 1-1 Division Packers @ Ravens, 1:00 PM Ravens @ Steelers, 4:25 PM
Bengals: 3-2, 1-1 Division Bengals @ Bills, 1:00 PM Browns @ Packers, 4:25 PM
Steelers: 0-4, 0-1 Division Lions @ Browns, 1:00 PM
AFC North Statistical Leaders
Leading Passer (yardage) Joe Flacco, Ravens – 116/201, 1360 yards, 5 touchdowns, 8 interceptions (11th in the NFL)
Leading Rusher (yardage) Giovani Bernard, Bengals – 45 carries, 209 yards, 2 touchdowns (26th in the NFL)
Leading Receiver (yardage Torrey Smith, Ravens – 27 catches, 556 yards, 1 touchdown (3rd in the NFL)
Sack Leader Terrell Suggs, Ravens – 7 sacks (4th in the NFL)
Interception Leader Daryl Smith, Ravens – 2 interceptions (6th in the NFL)
Top Offense Pittsburgh Steelers – 341.2 yards per game (19th in the NFL)
Top Defense Cleveland Browns – 301.8 yards per game (4th in the NFL)
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