Hello, everyone, welcome to another edition of AFC North Beat.
This week the Ravens host the Browns, the Bengals travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars, and the Steelers are at Idle.
With so much at stake for all teams involved, let’s get down to the five things to look for heading into this weekend:
1) Baltimore tries to avoid a letdown against divisional rival Cleveland only four days after an emotional win against the Patriots.
The spectacular play of second year wide receiver Torrey Smith on Sunday night is still being lauded as a heroic effort in light of the fact that his younger brother had passed away less than 24 hours earlier.
The win against the Patriots also seemed to reaffirm the Ravens' position as a contender in the AFC. Joe Flacco’s 382 yard passing night and 3 passing TDs was the second consecutive stellar performance for the Baltimore signal-caller against New England.
Yet, despite the emotional high the Ravens are on right now, they know they cannot afford to overlook Cleveland. Despite amassing 448 yards against them in Baltimore last season, the Ravens were fortunate to walk away from that contest 24-10 victor.
The absence of Browns’ all-pro cornerback Joe Haden should make Joe Flacco’s night somewhat easier, but Cleveland should be pumped for the game nonetheless.
2) Cleveland looks to avoid going 0-4 for the first time since 2009.
Not many fans may remember this, but, way back in May, Browns’ team president Mike Holmgren promised ‘significant improvement’ this season. While fans did not necessarily take that to mean they would make the playoffs, they certainly thought that an 8-8 or 7-9 season was possible.
The addition of running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden in the draft had the town buzzing. Finally there was something that Brownies could hang their proverbial hats on.
Yet, three games into the 2012 season, the Browns are still without a win, and the Cleveland faithful are wondering if the team will ever make it to the playoffs again.
Trent Richardson is certainly talking tough about his divisional rival from Baltimore, but, as the saying goes, talk is cheap. Thursday night it will be time to let their actions on the field do the talking.
At the end of the night, however, the absence of their leader in the secondary, Joe Haden, may be too much to overcome, as Cincinnati and Buffalo had been able to pass for an impressive 9.16 net yards per attempt against Cleveland.
3) The Bengals will look to make it three in a row as they visit the Jaguars on Sunday afternoon.
Cincinnati enters the game eighth in the league in total offense, as they are averaging 28.3 points per game after defeating Washington 31-28 last weekend.
They will try to take advantage of a Jaguars defense that ranks near the bottom of the league, surrendering an average of 23.3 points per game.
Unfortunately, the Bengals defense isn’t much better, as their 29th ranked unit has given up an average of 34 points a game.
4) Pittsburgh, at Idle, looks to rebound from the ugly loss to the Raiders with a win.
Last season, the Steelers played Idle tough, narrowly escaping with a win. Eric gave them all he had, by the way.
What’s that? Pittsburgh doesn’t play anyone this week? Rest up, Steelers. An angry Eagles squad will be coming to town in two weeks.
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