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AFC North Round Up: Week Eight: 5-2 is still a good record through 7 games edition

Happy Halloween everyone. Hope you all had a good time and have all come through the weekend safe and sound, if not a little bit hungover. First off, my apologies for not having a Week Seven edition of the AFC North round up. Exam time at University (not to mention a 98 page, 19000 word logbook) made it impossible to get the time to do it properly. 

I had two exams yesterday which made me miss the majority of the live broadcast of the Saints/Steelers game, however managed to catch the all important 4th quarter and watched the replay later that night.

Coming off big victories last week, the Browns (who slayed the Saints) and the Ravens (who held off an impressive Bills team) were rewarded with a much needed bye week, and left the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers to represent the AFC North for the week, however both succumbed to their opposition, each chalking up a Loss in their record.

Recaps after the jump. 

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GAME DAY WRAP UP

 

Miami Dolphins 22 @ Cincinnati Bengals 14

The Cincinnati Bengals continue to lose despite an offensive roster loaded with talent. If we weren't Steelers fans and had no idea about the history of the Bengals, you'd probably feel almost sorry for them. Can you blame their fanbase for getting all high and mighty after a division crown last season in which they went undefeated in the division? Can you blame them after they assembled one of the more potent looking offenses [on paper] before the season. Coaching on offense has let the Bengals down, and the play of Carson Palmer this season should have the Bengals planning long term in the offseason. Anyways, the Bengals played host to Miami, still seething after a controversial defeat at the hands of the Steelers, and in a tight defensive game, the Bengals once again found themselves losing a very winnable game.

The Good:

As per the trend of the Bengals season, not a hell of a lot of good came out of the game. Terrell Owens played well again, yet you can see his frustrations being on the brink of exploding. T.O grabbed 5 catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns, one of which couldnt have been more lucky, when instead of knocking the ball down, the Miami player tried to flick the ball up to himself whilst going to the ground, and ended up tapping it straight into T.O's hands. 

The Cincy defense let the 'Phins move the ball, however they came up big for the most part when it mattered, holding Miami to 5 field goals, and holding them to just 5/15 on third down.

The Bad:

The Cincinnati Bengals have to be the worst team in the league when it comes to inconsistency. The Offense showed up last week against the Falcons, and the defense didnt. This week, the defense showed up enough to win the game, yet the offense sputtered. 

Carson Palmer, after a strong game against the Falcons, had the Who Dey faithful screaming "where are the doubters now?!" after his brilliant performance, however, after this week, those doubters will be back out in force. And he deserves it. Carson failed to put the points on the board and failed to move the offense consistently, by the way, the Bengals didnt get a First Down in the entire third Quarter.

He was lucky to have two touchdowns when really one shouldve been an INT. If I were the Bengals front office, I would be seriously considering looking at a new franchise quarterback at seasons conclusion. 

The Head Scratcher:

Like I said before, the way the team as a whole fails to show up defies belief, and the Bengals just keep finding ways to lose. In games where Carson Palmer has a rating over 90, they are winless. In the two wins, Carson Palmers rating is sub-60. I think this is the last time I incorporate a Head Scratcher for the Bengals

Surprise of the Game:

Not one sack in the game. Hmmm. Yeah I couldnt do any better.

Key Stat:

Time of Possession for the Bengals: 26:31. Outgained by 7 minutes. The offense couldnt stay on the field, and late in the game, the effects of the Defense staying out their too long took its toll. Did I mention the Bengals didnt get a first down the entire third quarter?

 

Pittsburgh Steelers 10 @ New Orleans Saints 20

A lot of the Steeler faithful instantly chalked this one up as a win after the Cleveland Browns surprisingly impressive victory over Who Dat nation the previous week. I dont want to sound like a dick, but in the "Predict the Score" thread, many were chalking up massive blowouts for the game in the Steelers favor, and I warned that this Saints team is not as bad as they are playing, and they are a well coached team. Lo and behold, the Saints/Steelers game ended up as a defensive struggle, with the score locked at 3 at the half, and then in a wild 4th quarter, the Steelers ultimately made one too many mistakes, and the defending champs bounced back in what was a must win for them.

The Good:

After a loss like that, its really hard to find good things to talk about. But I will say that a certain rookie Wide Receiver out there is really impressing me. Emmanuel Sanders average 32 yards on kick returns, had 1 punt return for 38 yards, and had a key 21 yard catch. Sanders is making a believer out of me, and I hope that we give him some more opportunities in upcoming games, as this kid really looks like the real deal.

The Steelers Front Three also played really well. No Kiesel, no Smith, no problem? Albeit the Saints dont have the most potent rushing attack in the league and really never tried to run it consistently on us, Eason/Hood/Hoke/Hampton all played very well against the run and the Steeler D only allowed 1.4 ypc for the Saints rushing attack.

The Bad:

Upon more review of the tape, Bruce Arians was killing us in the first half. Terrible and predictable play calling. Bruce is possibly one of the worst in the league when it comes to making adjustments on the run as a play caller. Usually, if we struggle early, we struggle the whole game. Sunday night was no different unfortunately. Bruce Arians sputtering offense caused the defense to stay on the field and have short rests, and could be the reason why the defense let us down in the end.

Big Ben had one of those games like NYG of 2008, where he just didnt seem to "have it". The Saints dome is one of the loudest stadiums in the league which may have had some impact. However Ben's "game sense" as I like to call it, just wasnt there. The play that I point to most of all was the first play of the drive after the Saints went ahead 20 - 10, when he was sacked by Jonathan Vilma for a loss of 12. The play was a deep pass, deep routes that take awhile to complete. Saints show all out blitz. There was no hot receiver/checkdown option. Yes while some of you may point to bad play call, Big Ben has all the power in the world to audible based on what he saw. The Blitz wasnt bluffing, they came, and Ben went down. 

Later in that drive, he has two receivers open to his left, he stayed 100% locked on Mike Wallace to his right, and throws the game ending interception. Today was just one of those days where he just didnt have it.

Heath Miller is one of our most reliable players on the team, so it kills me to put him here. Heath Miller has 4 fumbles in 5 and a half seasons as a Steeler. He had only 1 lost fumble previously in his career. However, he had a mild brain fart and tried to keep churning and spinning for yardage when he was already well past the first down marker. This is football and these things happen, but that was an awful play.

James Harrison's late hit on Drew Brees killed me. It was so late that Brees had completely finished his follow through of his throwing motion. There was no composure what so ever. Call it what you want, frustration over holding or whatever, it was a stupid, boneheaded play. Although he led with his helmet, he clearly never hits the helmet of Drew Brees, so he shouldnt get fined. That was a huge penalty in a crucial moment. 

Surprise of the Game:

Whether it was bad offense by Pittsburgh or good schemes and defense by the Saints, the Steelers couldnt pass the ball all day against a secondary that was pretty much playing four Safeties all game. There should have been openings there for the taking. Wallace never got open deep, but shouldnt that mean someone should be open underneath? Frustrating, frustrating performance. 

The Head Scratcher:

How in the hell does a Dick LeBeau coached defense allow a quarterback to go 20/22 in the second half. The short passing game killed us. Our secondary is really starting to worry me after viewing tape. The aggressiveness disappeared late in the game after the Miller turnover and a few usually brilliant players got caught out big at times. Troy Polamalu on the long pass to Meachem, Ryan Clark got caught biting on play action, Lawrence Timmons bit big time on the PA of the Moore touchdown. 

Key Stat:

20/22 for Drew Brees in the second half really says it all. But the Steelers were also outgained in TOP by almost TEN MINUTES. Terrible offense, and our defense was completely worn down late in the game.

 

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LOOK AHEAD TO WEEK NINE

All the AFC North teams back in action next week, including the Steelers first matchup against the reeling Bengals.

 

Miami Dolphins (4-3) @ Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

Miami look to finish off a tough 3 game stretch against the AFC North with a winning record against a rested and focused Baltimore Ravens outfit. The Ravens defense has had two weeks off to correct their horrible performances from last week against the Bills. Baltimore is one of the tougher places to win in the league, but then again, Miami are the kings of the road this season, and take their 4-0 road record with confidence into this one.

Ravens: 20 Dolphins: 19

 

New England Patriots (6-1) @ Cleveland Browns (2-5)

Are the Patriots the quietest one loss team in history or what? Nothing flashy this season, but they are winning. Coming off a strong performance against the Minnesota Vikings, they head into Cleveland to avoid a let down game against a Browns side coming off a monumental victory. The Browns are going to need a lot of luck to have a repeat performance against a Pats side that is just executing so well in all phases thus far

Patriots: 31 Browns: 13

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) @ Cincinnati Bengals (2-5)

With the uncertainty over a Ravens victory, this could be a game for the Steelers to one-up the Ravens in the standings. However, much more focus will be on the game ahead rather than the potential standings boost. The Bengals are so up and down this season, I have no idea which side will show up. The explosive offense with terrible defense, or the sputtering offense with strong defense. The Bengals will get up for this game, so this one should in no way be thought of as a gimme. 

Steelers: 23 Bengals: 10

 

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QUICK HITS:

- Randy Moss will be cut in the near future by the Vikings. Well, that all worked out well didnt it. Looking at the waiver list, it is really hard to pinpoint a team who will take him. The likely scenario will be a team hovering around .500 who think he may help get them up over the hump and into the playoffs. Would a team like the Rams who have a cannon armed quarterback with no deep help take a look? Or is this potentially problematic? The saga continues...

- Gotta love how the Raiders are playing right now. Have they turned the corner? I cant think of the last time the Black and Silver put together two consecutive blowouts. They are playing with incredibly high confidence right now in what is still a wide open AFC West division.

- New York Jets are who we thought they were? 9-0 losers to the struggling Packers in what was a potential statement game, but instead, they fell to 2nd place in the division behind the Patriots.

- Dallas's season is all but over. Lol.

- Best week in BTSC Pick Em so far!!! 9 of 12 so far this week, with gambles of Jacksonville, Green Bay and San Diego paying off. If the Colts beat the Texans, I'll be 10/13

- I wanted to say this last week, but didnt have a write up. Jay Cutler is a total idiot. He wont be around in the league much longer.

- Coaches who will not be coaches next season: Josh McDaniels, Wade Phillips, Norv Turner. 

- I know a lot of people are panicking over our most recent loss, but the team is still 5-2. That, in a league where parity is so ridiculously high this season, is a damn good record to have. Lets look ahead to the Bengals before we start making claims of a mid season slump yeah?

- Hard to single out players for Performances of the week, so I'll give a shout to Jason Campbell for killing Seattle on the weekend after all the doubts being raised about him, and also to Josh Freeman, who hung tough to hold off a desperate Cardinals come back. Freeman is a winner, and reminds me a lot of a young Big Ben. He was helped in huge part by LeGarrette Blount, who is turning into a true gem for the Bucs.

Have at it.

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