Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/21/12

Week 3 of the 2012 NFL season is filled with intriguing storylines for the AFC North, as all four teams prepare to play opponents outside of the division.

Baltimore hosts the New England on Sunday night, and the Ravens will be looking to exact a measure of revenge on the Patriots, whom they lost to in the AFC Championship game last season in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Pittsburgh travels to Oakland to face a Raiders squad that is 0-2; the Steelers are quite familiar with Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer, whom they faced quite often when he played for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Cincinnati travels to our nation’s capital to face the Washington Redskins and rookie sensation Robert Grifffin III, who in two games has passed for 526 yards on 55 attempts—an impressive 9.6 yards per attempt.

And, finally the Cleveland Browns look to notch their first win of the season when they host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon.

So, without further ado, here are five keys to the games being played in the AFC North this weekend:

1) Can a new look Baltimore offense find the endzone against a revamped New England defense?

During the offseason, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron took it upon himself to install a quick tempo no huddle offense in Baltimore.

The results of this experiment, thru two games, have been mixed to say the least

In the season opener against the Bengals, the Ravens would pile up 430 yards of total offense             en route to a 34-13 blowout win. Quarterback Joe Flacco would pass for 299 yards and 2TDs on 29 attempts, for an impressive 10.3 yards per attempt.

Last week in Philadelphia, however, Flacco would pass for only 5.5 yards per attempt, and the Eagles defense would force him into two turnovers.

Sunday night the Ravens offense faces a New England Patriots defense that seems to be playing inspired ball, to say the least. Thru the first two games of the season the Patriots have held both the Tennessee Titans’ Chris Johnson and Arizona’s Beanie Wells to a combined total of 48 rushing yards.

Rookies Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower have made their presence known, as the Patriots defense is allowing a mere 5.9 yards per attempt on passing plays.

The key for the Ravens will be for Flacco to establish the passing game early, thus mitigating the chance that the Patriots load the box against running back Ray Rice.

2) Will the Steelers be able to dispatch of the hapless Raiders on the road, or will the Black and Gold fall to the Silver and Black?

 Despite a 1-1 record, the Pittsburgh has been playing some really good football. If it weren’t for another Peyton Manning comeback in week 1, the Steelers could easily be 2-0 and alone in first in the AFC North.

The Raiders, on the other hand, seem to be a team in disarray after falling to 0-2 last week against the Dolphins. On offense, quarterback Carson Palmer has been putting up some impressive numbers, but hasn’t been nearly as successful getting the Silver and Black into the end zone.  Their defense can’t seem to stop anyone, as the Dolphins rolled up 452 yards on Sunday.

The Steelers practically owned Carson Palmer when he played for the Bengals, so this game should be a cakewalk, right?

 Wrong. Despite the 0-2 record, and the different directions these teams appear to be headed in, this has all the makings of a trap game.

3) Can the Bengals go into Washington and shut down the rookie RG3?

Through two games of the season, Robert Griffin III has not only looked as good as advertised, but, at times, he’s been even better. If it weren’t for a stupid unsportmanslike conduct penalty on Josh Morgan last week, the Redskins would be 2-0 as well.

The Bengals did beat the Browns last week, but they also gave up 322 yards through the air to
another rookie, Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden.

If Cincinnati is to win in Washington, it may have to rely on its own young quarterback—Andy Dalton—to outduel the impressive Griffin.

4) Will the Browns finally win their first game of the season against Buffalo?

Both Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson got on track last week, as the pair combined for 431 yards of total offense against the Bengals.

Unfortunately for the Browns, their defense couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain, as Cleveland’s secondary was burned on numerous occasions. Absent were veterans Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown, so the Bengals picked on youngsters Buster Skrine and Trevin Wade as a result.

The inexperience in the defensive backfield will continue to be a problem for the time being. Whether the Browns can overcome that handicap against Buffalo remains to be seen.



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