NFL Quarterly: AFC North

afc north

  • AFC North Standings
    • Through 4 weeks of action there are 2 undefeated teams, the Cincinnati Bengals being one of them.
    • There is stiff competition in the AFC North, where the Bengals watched the Baltimore Ravens move to 3-1 and the Pittsburgh Steelers drop to 2-2
    • The Cleveland Browns are also coming off a bye with a 1-2 record

  • Bengals 3-0
    • Cincinnati started the season in Baltimore, going up early and holding on 23-16.
    • Then they hosted the next 2 games to dismantle the high-scoring Atlanta Falcons 24-10, and corralling the Tennessee Titans 33-7.
  • Bengals Offense
    • The offense is 6th in points, 7th in yards, and ranked 7th
    • The backfield duo of Giovani Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill has been their strength, plunging for 5 combined scores behind a very good O-line
    • Bernard is averaging total 111 yards per game
    • Quarterback Andy Dalton has been efficient, completing 65% of his passes, with a 300-yard game under his belt and a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio, including a trick play where Dalton caught the ball and ran to the endzone
    • A.J. Green has a pair of 100-yard games, he left week 2 immediately but his toe seems to be fine
    • Receiver Mohammed Sanu is their versatile offensive weapon, he’s got a dozen grabs, and has thrown or carried the ball at least once as well
    • Starting receiver Marvin Jones is slated to make his debut in week 6, recovering from an ankle injury that will send Sanu back to the slot
  • Bengals Defense
    • The defense has allowed the fewest points in football so far, tied for 2nd with 6 interceptions, and 4th with 25 passes defended
    • Their s\standouts thus far are:
      • Safety Reggie Nelson with 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks
      • Corner Terrence Newman, also with 20 tackles and 5 passes defensed
      • And linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, filling in for the concussed Vontaze Burfict with a team-leading 22 tackles, 2 passes defensed, and a pick
      • Defensive end Carlos Dunlap is at it again, leading the unit with 3 sacks and 3 tackles for a loss
    • Bengals Special Teams
      • Corner Adam Jones aka Pacman, has fielded 4 punts for nearly 18 yards per return
      • Punter Kevin Huber has a dozen boots, 8 downed inside the 20 and 4 pinned inside the 10
      • Kicker Mike Nugent is 7/11 in field goals, 3 misses came in week 2 hosting the Falcons in windy conditions, he did drill 5/6 in week 1
    • Schedule
      • They had the bye week to prepare to hit the road for the New England Patriots, who got embarrassed on Monday Night Football, at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs
      • The next few games after that they host the struggling Carolina Panthers, the inconsistent Indianapolis Colts, and collide with the rival Ravens for their 2nd matchup of the season
    • Prediction
      • They have been playing good football to start the past few seasons, I like them to come out on top in 3 of the next 4 contests.

Ravens 3-1

  • After dropping the home opener to the Bengals, falling short of a late comeback, they bounced back on a short week for a convincing 26-6 win in Pittsburgh. After edging out the Browns 23-21 and flexing 38-10 over the Carolina Panthers, the Ravens are riding a 3-game winning streak.
  • Ravens Offense
    • This bunch is 8th in scoring, 5th in yards, 3rd in first downs, and 7th on 3rd
    • Joe Flacco has found himself a new go-to guy this season with the addition of receiver Steve Smith. They’ve connected on 3 touchdowns, giving Flacco a 7:2 ratio in comparison to I-N-Ts, with a 93.5 rating.
    • Smith is showing that he still has plenty left in the tank, posting an average of 107 yards with 16 first downs.
    • Torrey Smith has seen a decrease in targets and production. The positive spin is that he leads the NFL in drawing pass interference penalties. His arrow is point up with the loss of tight end Dennis Pitta, again.
    • Owen Daniels is the man at tight end now and so far he has a pair of scores.
    • The confusion lies in Baltimore’s ground game, where the production hasn’t been very confusing. Week 1 Bernard Pierce was the starting running back, only to get bench for fumbling and replace by Justin Forsett, who’s been the change-of-pace back. Forsett ran for triple digits, something Pierce was able to do the following week as the starter.
    • Pierce again went down and the Ravens kept Forsett as the change-of-pace back, giving the nod to rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro to showcase himself, which he did by compiling over 100 yards.
    • Then we have last week, Pierce sidelined, and Forsett was given the lead role, nearly hitting the century mark in a blowout win that involved Taliaferro as well.
    • Both Forsett and Taliaferro have scored twice and Pierce has yet to cross the pylon.
  • Ravens Defense
    • Ranked 7th against the run, they are tied for 2nd with the Cardinals in allowing only 15 points per game. They’re not really getting many sacks or turnovers, but they’re getting off the field.
    • Linebacker C.J. Mosley has racked up 34 tackles with 4 passes defensed.
    • Linebacker Darryl Smith has 30 and 2.
    • Pass-rusher Elvin Dumervil leads the team with 3.5 sacks.
    • And believe it or not, nose tackle Haloti Ngata has recorded the only interception.
  • Ravens Special Teams
    • The reliable foot of kicker Justin Tucker has converted 9/11 field goals, which is 82%.
    • Punter Sam Koch been solid, 10 punts in and 4 were inside the 20 with a pair pinned inside the 10 yard line.
    • Jacoby Jones has been one of the better returners for years, he pickes up 27 yards on kicks and ranks 6th when it comes to punts with 13 yards.
  • Schedule
    • The next slate of games come against some up-and-down teams in the Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Falcons.
    • Then they get a crack at revenge when they travel to Cincy.
  • Prediction
    • I think they go 3-1 again in the next quarter of games.

  • Steelers 2-2
    • A .500 team that has played in a close win, a close loss, a blowout win, and a blowout loss. They hung onto a first half lead vs the Browns, got pounded in Baltimore, returned the favor to the Carolina Panthers, and squandered a lead at the very end to give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers their first win.
  • Steelers Offense
    • The offense has taken a leap in the right direction to the elite realm. 8th in passing, 5th in rushing, 5th overall, they continue to shoot themselves in the foot with the second most penalties.
    • Running back Le’Veon Bell has been outstanding, 94 yards a game picking up 5 yards per carry. He’s got a score, backfield mate LeGarrette Blount has two, making a case for more carries with 7.5 yards on each his runs.
    • Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still have a mediocre line, but he’s chucked for 273 yards per game, throwing 6 TDs to a pair of picks, with a 99 rating and 68 completion %
    • All-world receiver Antonio Brown has been unstoppable, posting 106 yards each week with 5 TDs and 20 first downs.
    • Markus Wheaton is coming on, the sophomore speed receiver has been used as a possession receiver, and fellow sophomore Justin Brown caught 7 balls for an average of 15 yards per cactch.
    • Heath Miller is still the stable tight end he’s been for years, picking up 50 yards on average.
  • Steelers Defense
    • This team has played average overall, against the run and pass, which could be good news considering a few starters got injured, most notably cornerback Ike Taylor and rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier.
    • Big plays have been hard to come by for them.
    • Linebacker Lawrence Timmons paves the way with 34 tackles.
    • Safety Troy Polomalu has 28 and corner Cortez Allen has the only pick on the young season.
    • Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and linebacker Jarvis Jones each have a couple sacks.
  • Steelers Special Teams
    • Kicker Shaun Suisham has rocked it, 9/10 on field goals.
    • Brad Wing punted half of his attempts inside the 20 with a long of 59.
    • Antonio Brown is also the primary punt returner, picking up 10 yards each opportunity there.
    • Running back Dri Archer is healthy and will be returning the kicks.
  • Steelers Schedule
    • A favorable matchup against the win-less Jacksonville Jaguars is on the horizon. Following that golden opportunity to bounce back is the second matchup with the Browns, and then hosting AFC South opponents, the improved Houston Texans and .500 Indianapolis Colts.
  • Prediction
    • I see them keeping up that .500 record and splitting their next 4 games.

  • Browns 1-2
    • Cleveland has played some exciting football, all their games have been close. Their week 1 comeback fell in overtime short at Pitt 30-27.
    • Then they held home field against the New Orleans Saints 26-24, and allowed the Ravens to beat them at the end 23-21.
  • Browns Offense
    • The offense has been average with a boost from the 9th ranked ground game. They try to control the clock and it’s kept them in every game.
    • Rookie back Terrence West has been the lead back with another rookie, Isaiah Crowell chiming in while Ben Tate has been sidelined. Combined they average triple digits pounding the rock with 5 scores. West gets picks up 4.3 yards per carry, Crowell 5.2.
    • Brian Hoyer has played exactly as they need him to, managing the game well with 3 touchdowns and zero turnovers leading to a 97.5 rating.
    • It’s not like he has the best arsenal of targets, but slot receiver Andrew Hawkins has been consistent with 81 yards a game and 16 first downs.
    • Miles Austin got into the endzone twice and Travis Benjamin once.
    • Tight end Jordan Cameron is expected back from a shoulder injury.
  • Browns Defense
    • Despite last season’s success, 2014 has been a slow start for the D that is ranked near last in several categories.
    • Newly acquired veterans are trying to pick up this unit with Coach Mike Pettine. Linebacker Karlos Dansby has made 23 tackles, a sack, an interception, and 2 passes defensed.
    • Safety Donte Whitner leads with 26 tackles.
    • Linebacker Paul Kruger has 2 sacks.
  • Browns Special Teams
    • Billy Cundiff has kicked 4/6 field goals.
    • Spencer Lanning punted 6/16 punts inside the 20.
    • Receiver Marlon Moore has returned a couple kicks for a 30-yard average.
  • Browns Schedule
    • The Browns have all winnable games in the next quarter.
    • Pettine is a defensive coach and he got extra time with a bye week to gameplan for offensive guru Ken Whisenhunt, and the Tennessee Titans.
    • Pittsburgh comes to town for the second meeting, then they plays at Jacksonville and host the Oakland Raiders.
  • Prediction:
    • I actually expect the Browns to get 3 of these victories.

AFC North Quarterly Awards

  • Offensive MVP – Steelers WR Antonio Brown
  • Defensive MVP – Ravens LB C.J. Mosley
  • Special Teams MVP – Bengals P Kevin Huber
  • Coach – Bengals Marvin Lewis