Between the hard-fought ground battle in Baltimore between the Ravens (2-2) and the Cleveland Browns (2-2), to the Monday Night Football showcase of two winless teams, Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3) vs Cincinnati Bengals (0-4), the AFC North is a division undergoing a huge transformation.
How did this week’s games impact the division standings – and what do the upcoming weeks have in store for these hard grinding teams?
Let’s take a look at the first quarter of the 2019 season for this division…
The Baltimore Ravens sit alone atop the AFC North after one week due to surprising losses by the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cincinnati Bengals loss to the Seattle Seahawks was only surprising in that the game was so very much closer than anyone predicted.
The Ravens looked amazing, but is that because the Miami Dolphins are worse than advertised? And after all the pre-season hype, are the Browns really this bad?
No one was surprised to see the New England Patriots man-handle the Steelers, yet the complete beat-down was unexpected. And quarterback Andy Dalton put up better numbers than Russell Wilson!!!! How did that happen?
Let’s face it – the AFC North was a hot mess last year! With Le’Veon Bell sitting out, the once-dominant Pittsburgh Steelers had to root for the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 in order to make the playoffs.
The Baltimore Ravens benched quarterback Joe Flacco and began the new era of Lamar Jackson football. Can Jackson keep being the leading rusher for this team and avoid injury?
The Cincinnati Bengals landed at the bottom of a division where the Browns had held that spot for too many years to count. But the once 0-16 Browns, under the leadership of rookie QB Baker Mayfield, are making their case to take over the division.
Let’s take a team-by-team look at the moves they’ve made so far to get ready for the battle to be “Kings of the North.”
After years of tough competition and league-leading stats, the AFC North seems to have fallen on hard times. Through four weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers are at the top with a predictable 3-1 record. They are currently ranked 5th on the Bleacher Report Power Rankings. Then, there’s the REST of the division. Down at #22 we have the Baltimore Ravens (2-2), at #23 the Cincinnati Bengals (1-3), and, pulling up the rear as usual, my Cleveland Browns (0-4).
Pittsburgh’s only loss so far came in overtime vs the Chicago Bears. They look good. Really good. Going to the Playoffs and maybe the Super Bowl good. (Man it hurts just to type that!). They host a tough and improving Jacksonville Jaguars team this week but their offense, which has put up a division-leading 90 points so far, is up to the challenge.
The Baltimore Ravens opened up on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals and came out with a divisional win. On a day where we didn’t know how the offense would hold up giving the fact that Joe Flacco hadn’t played at all during the preseason, Joe managed the game as a playmaker should. The line only allowed Joe to be sacked one time.
The run game was not abandoned which was a good thing. Seeing both Terrance West and Buck Allen split carries was refreshing. Both ran well. It was good to see one of our wide receivers score a touchdown. Hopefully we will see more from our passing attack. The coaches did a wonderful game plan coming into week 1 because there have been plenty of times where we have gone into Cincy and come away with a loss. That has ended.
Joe seemed to settle into the game as it progressed along. Joe showed no signs of any lingering back problems or pain even when he got sacked. He completed 9-17 passes for 121 yards. The passing highlight was the 48 yard touchdown from Jeremy Maclin that gave us a 10-0 score in the first half.
The run game was displayed as a two headed monster with both West and Allen sharing the load. We ran the ball 47 times with an astounding 157 yards in rushing which was done by not abandoning the run game. With the Ravens controlling the game by running the ball, the passing game wasn’t need that much. Once Joe gets back in sync with the receivers it will open up more in due time.