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 a day of reviewing the history of pro football and soaking up a compelling speech from former Bear’s linebacker Brian Urlacher, the Chicago Bears made a strong stance at the Hall of Fame game in a 17-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The stage was set for rookies to make their mark and veterans to show they still got what it takes to compete. It would have been epic to have seen the Bears first-round pick out on the field for the entire world to see. But there were others who took the stage to prove that they belonged in the NFL.
The Baltimore Ravens started training camp ahead of all the other NFL teams. The start of the 2018 season has a lot going on. This is Ozzie Newsome’s last year as general manager and a new draft class gives Ravens fans a lot to look forward to.
The Ravens had one of it’s best drafts this year by filling the needed skill set position. With the new addition of wide receivers Micheal Crabtree and Willie Snead, quarterback Joe Flacco now has some weapons that can go after the ball. Hopefully the coordinators will make the playbook better for Flacco and company.
The Lions were facing an opponent this week that on paper, appeared pretty evenly matched. Both teams are having mediocre seasons so far. Each team has playoff aspirations. Each team has had impressive wins but also had some not so impressive losses. They also had the same record going into this game. In order for the Lions to keep their playoff hopes alive, winning this game was paramount.
I hate to say this because just a few weeks ago I said that the Packers had a great chance to turn things around for the rest of the season. Alas, they haven’t. And from the looks of it, they won’t.
So, what went wrong? It’s hard to tell, but besides quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone, things never quite picked up on the turf for the Green Bay Packers. Heck, they even lost tight end Martellus Bennett back to the New England Patriots. He started seven games and then the team played a very odd game of injury-waive-goodbye with him.
The Titans are back from their bye week with a victory at Nissan Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens. Also back from extended recovery periods were safety Johnathan Cyprien and wide receiver Corey Davis, who both had been out with hamstring injuries.
So far, this entire Titans season it has seemed like something is missing. The Titans are barely squeaking by with wins. If you thought the return of Cyprien and Davis would make a huge difference, you were wrong (or is it just me thinking that way?) Davis made a spectacular catch with some toe drag swag, catching a 23-yard pass from quarterback Marcus Mariota. Cyprien was part of the Titans defense that did not allow a completion of 20 or more yards.
What a way to come back from a disarmingly bad loss last week against division rivals for the Baltimore Ravens to play like they did on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. The Ravens played excellent on both sides of the ball.
After being criticized by both fans and press alike, the Ravens came out playing fast and smart. When given good protection and time to throw we see a completely different team. We see a team that has the ground game and passing game in sync. Coming into this game we didn’t know which Ravens team was going to show up Sunday.
Glad to see the preparedness for the Raiders was on display. Quarterback Joe Flacco looked comfortable in the pocket. He didn’t throw one interception and was not sacked at all. Despite some injuries to some players we still managed to escape mistake free.
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 Jacksonville Jaguars lost to the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, but it wasn’t all bad for fans of the team. Coming off a big win in Week 1 over AFC South rival Houston Texans, the Jaguars were poised at the top of the division. Alas, it was doomed not to last as they fell to the Titans 37-16.
It is still early and they can certainly rebound with a win in London, England over former AFC Central foe the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are currently undefeated and sit atop the AFC North but as the saying goes any given Sunday. The Ravens defense is playing lights out but their offense has suffered several injuries. It remains to be seen who takes the win across the pond.
In the meantime, we are here help Jaguars fans feel better heading into that tilt. So, here are three things Jags fans can take away from the game to make them feel better.
Rookie running back Leonard Fournette is the real deal. The former LSU product is fifth in the league in rushing yards at 140 despite having a lackluster game (14/40/1). He is second in the league in rushing attempts only trailing to Denver Broncos CJ Anderson at 45. He has been everything fans could have hoped for and then some. Just watch this grown man run versus the Titans.