FanPost

AFC North Round Up: Week 12: M.I.A Edition


Apologies for no Round Up the past two weeks. The Patriots game hurt like something that I cannot even explain, and try as I did, I could not find the mental energy to write up about it. Not that there was any shortage of critiquing or complaining post game.

As for last week, my excuse is work. University is over and I am currently working my summer job most days of the week, so I struggle to find time to write it up. To help my cause, a newer format that is quicker and easier to write is in order:

The AFC North went 3-1 in Week Twelve, with only the Cincinnati Bengals falling to their opponents. Pittsburgh and Baltimore each pulled off less than impressive victories to keep pace with each other heading into the colossal battle next week in Baltimore which will likely decide who is playing for homefield advantage and who is playing for a wildcard berth.

Oh, and Cleveland bet Carolina to continue their hope for a .500 season.

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Game Day Wrap Up:

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Cincinatti Bengals 10 @ New York Jets 26

 

What was Good:

 

  • Cincinatti lost again. Yay!
  • Rookie Carlos Dunlap had two sacks and is starting to look like the pass rusher that they envisioned in April when they chose to draft him.
  • In a boring, defensive minded game, the Bengals were holding off the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets pretty well in the first half, and carried a 7-3 lead at the half.
  • The Bengals defense also held a usually clutch Jets team to only 3/13 on Third Down.

What was Bad:

  • Carson Palmer may be playing himself out of a job this season. He was terrible on Turkey Day, throwing for just 135 yards, 1 touchdown, completing 44.7% of his passes for an abysmal 3.6 yards per throw not to mention two interceptions.
  • Terrell Owens mouth. His mouth wrote a check that his ass  play couldnt cash. He wasnt exclusively covered by Revis or Cromartie, as the Jets switched it up, but he still only grabbed a season low 3 receptions for 17 yards
  • The Bengals failed to play spoiler to a playoff contender that could potentially derail either the Ravens or Steelers post season chances. 
  • Special Teams blunders by the Bengals. A touchdown on a Kick Return by Brad Smith, a turnover after Andre Caldwell appeared ignorant to the incoming punted ball to his head. Just a terrible terrible performance from a terrible team.

What were they thinking?


Putting the Bengals on the holiday TV lineup for Thanksgiving. They haven't played one full game of solid football all season long. No matter who is playing on live TV, I usually still love watching the entire game because it is still football. But the Bengals game was the first I have ever chose to stop watching before the 4th quarter, it was just a pathetic spectacle. 


Where to now?


The Bengals play New Orleans in Cincinnati next week, which is irrelevant to the AFC North no matter which way you slice it. Lets hope they get embarrassed so that all hope is lost come Steelers 2.0 in two weeks time.


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Carolina Panthers 23 @ Cleveland Browns 24


What was Good:

  • Peyton Hillis again continued on his pro bowl pace this season, notching up 131 yards and another 3 touchdowns rushing, bringing his season total to 11, just one behind league leader Arian Foster. He also had 6 receptions for 63 yards. Got to love his old school "Get'r done" mentality.
  • The young receivers on this roster finally showed some collective production in the same game. Massaquoi (4/52) and Robiskie (7/50) both produced in this game and made some good catches. Robiskie especially was well overdue for a breakout game, considering before last seasons draft he was considered the most "polished receiver in the draft"

What was Bad:

  • The Defense didnt play very decisively or dominantly against the worst team in the league. Jonathan Stewart, who had missed the previous two games and had been incredibly ineffective behind an underachieving Offensive Line, still managed to grab 98 yards at 8.1 yards per carry, a season high conceded for the Cleveland Browns. 
  • After leading 21-7 midway through the 2nd quarter, the Browns got complacent and seemed to put the drive into cruise control, and they let the Panthers reel off 16 straight points to take a 23-21 lead in the 4th. Ultimately, the Browns responded to get a FG to retake the lead, but then they still allowed the Clausen-led offense to get into field goal range again and the usually reliable Kasay missed the game winner.
  • Jake Delhomme is terrible and should be cut at seasons conclusion. He throws the ugliest interceptions in the league, and today was no different, throwing two, one of which was returned for a touchdown with the Panthers rallying.

What were they thinking?


Starting Jake Delhomme? Maybe Mangini and the Browns coaching staff were hoping for some sort of inspired performance by Jake Delhomme against his former team, but it was far from fruition. Delhomme despite throwing 245 yards threw 2 more interceptions to bring his season numbers to 1 touchdown and 6 (count 'em, six) interceptions. Delhomme had lost his previous two starts, and very nearly cost the Browns this one. Why not start Seneca Wallace who had better statistics across the board? Sure, his record was 1-3 in 4 starts, but he played Kansas City (7-4), Baltimore (8-3), and Atlanta (9-2) in losses all decided by one score. 


Where to from here?


Cleveland will continue their quest for a .500 season and look to build momentum. Browns fans will be calling for McCoy to return or Wallace to take over the reigns following Delhommes near implosion against the worst team in the league. Cleveland now embark on a three game road stretch against Miami, Buffalo and Cincinatti. 


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Pittsburgh Steelers 19 @ Buffalo Bills 16


What was Good:

  • Hines Ward was back to old school Hines Ward today, showing some great hands on route to 7 for 107, his best output of the season since Week One vs Atlanta (6 for 108).
  • Rashard Mendenhall had some very nice runs and was our reliable workhorse today in a game where offensive flow and rhythm was lacking. He had season highs in carries (36) and yards (151) to go with one touchdown.
  • Finishing off the game and winning. No doubt we were helped in overtime by Stevie Johnson dropping the wide open touchdown pass, but we took advantage after that. Winning is winning, and a loss today could have crippled our divisional hopes. 
  • Shout out to Dan Sepulveda for his epic punt from his own endzone which went 55 yards with brilliant hangtime. Clutch play by a not so celebrated position. This was what he was a 4th (and 6th) round pick for.

What was Bad:

  • Being outscored 16-3 in the second half. After going up 13-0 in the first half, we were dominating and left quite a few points off the board. We shouldve been able to make the corrections needed to come out and finish those drives, except the Bills Defensive Co-Ordinator outcoached Bruce Arians in the 2nd. The pedal cannot come off the accelerator against a team notorious for their "never say die" attitude this season.
  • The combined penalty count - Offensive Line play. The Offensive Line deserved many of the holding calls they got and there is no better way to disrupt rhythm than being flagged all the time. We wiped off a 30+ yard Mendenhall run amongst other things. 
  • The personal foul on James Harrison when he hit Ryan Fitzpatrick in the chest. The ref's flag was already coming out of his pocket before the hit. The happy feet refs are really starting to ruin good football by being too brainwashed by the "reputation" that James Harrison possesses. Just because it is a huge hit, does not mean it was illegal or dirty. 

Was it worth it?


I wasnt a big fan of running Mendenhall 36 times. With all the injuries we have had this season, I would rather see Mewelde Moore or Isaac Redman get some more carries. Redman proved clutch late in the game with some tough running, and we need to keep Mendenhall fresh for the final run to the division. Even though he may not show it, Mendy will no doubt be carrying the effects of 36 carries into the next game against Baltimore, possibly the most important game of the season.


Where to from here?


The biggest game of the Steelers season approaches next week as they head into Baltimore to face the Ravens, who were - like the Steelers - unconvincing in a win today over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After being red hot in the mid points of the season, the Ravens appear a bit cold, with a loss to the Falcons, and two not-so-impressive wins against Carolina and the Bucs. Baltimore is still one of the hardest places in the entire league to play, and this year is no different, as the Ravens hold a 5-0 record at home this season. 


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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 @ Baltimore Ravens 17


What was Good:

  • Flacco was inconsistent to start, but came on strong in the 2nd quarter and threw two nice touchdowns to both Todd Heap (65) and Derrick Mason (10). The Interception wasnt a good play, into double coverage, but what a play by Aqib Talib, who somehow managed to hold it between his legs whilst going to ground and not letting it hit the turf.
  • The Defense didnt record a sack, but dont be fooled, Josh Freeman was never comfortable and constantly under pressure from the Ravens front seven.
  • Derrick Mason continues to be Mr. Reliable for Joe Flacco, catching 8 for 87 and drawing a key Pass Interference call which led to his touchdown. The call made Raheem Morris blow up in epic fashion, and all it wouldve taken was the defender on the play to not place his hands backwards and instead look to "attempt to catch" the ball. He had inside positioning on Mason which was all legal, but made himself appear to play receiver instead of ball, which resulted in the flag.
  • Further congrats to Flacco, who became the franchise leader in Passing touchdowns for the Baltimore Ravens. Nothing special considering the mark was only 51 touchdowns, but it shows that Flacco has performed better and shown better long term value than the quarterbacks before him. He is no stop-gap solution.

What was Bad:

  • Ray Rice's numbers looked good on paper, and his performance was a solid one, running 20 times for 85 yards including closing out the game in impressive fashion with three first downs to deny the Bucs one last chance at a comeback. What I didnt like was that the Bucs came into the game 29th against the run, yet the Ravens failed to overly dominate the battle of the trenches in the run game. The Bucs had allowed SEVEN 100 yard rushers in the last eight games, and the Ravens were 13th in rushing, but only managed a combined 92 yards on the Bucs.
  • The pass blocking for the Ravens was lacking a lot too. Although at times it was Flacco holding the ball, many times the blockers would completely whiff on their man and let themselves get blown by. The Buccaneers ended up with four sacks.

Where to from here?


The Steelers have had Sunday December 5th circled ever since a last second defeat from the Ravens with Charlie Batch at Quarterback. This time the Steelers travel to Baltimore which has been a fortress for the Ravens lately, winning nine consecutive games at home, not to mention 5-0 this season. On the flipside, the Steelers have been one of the better road teams in the league this season, going 5-1 with the only loss being to the New Orleans Saints.


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Quick Hits:

  • In my opinion, look for both Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan to be heavily punished after their intense altercation in Houstons 20-0 win over the Titans today. Finnegan will likely be suspended for multiple games, as he has a history with fines and a reputation as a dirty player, and he certainly seemed the instigator in this one. Andre Johnson has one blemish on his record, a $7500 fine for an altercation with [funnily enough] Cortland Finnegan last season. However, this looked BAD. Throwing wild haymakers to a helmetless player who is cowering on his hands and knees is not a good look for Goodell. I expect Johnson to be handed a 1 game suspension, however with the Texans playing on Thursday night, his chances of this happening are lessened due to the time frame.
  • Atlanta bet Green Bay in a potential NFC Title game preview, and the game did not disappoint. Green Bay played really well in a stadium where Matt Ryan has won 19/20 in his young career. Stay tuned as I expect both these teams to make deep playoff runs.
  • Sam Bradford possibly had his coming of age game against Denver. He has had his struggles on the road this season, and Mile High is not an easy place to play, yet he torched the Broncos to the tune of 308 yards and 3 touchdowns (both career highs) with no interceptions. The Rams held on late for an exciting 36-33 victory to bring the Rams to 5-6 and a surprising shared lead in the NFC West.
  • Speaking of the NFC West, I think for the first time in a long time (if ever?) the NFC Conference could be sending a team with a losing record to the playoffs. Seattle has a 5-6 record and plays Carolina, @San Francisco, Atlanta, @Tampa Bay, whilst St Louis (5-6) plays @Arizona, @New Orleans, Kansas City, San Francisco before a potential Division deciding game @ Seattle. Seattle has the earlier race to the finish, but I think St Louis is the better team. Whoever makes the Wildcard round against either of these two teams will be licking their chops at the prospect.

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Poll of the Day for BTSC:

Which of the following Divisional Battles has the easiest run to the finish?


Baltimore Ravens: Pittsburgh, @Houston, New Orleans, @Cleveland, Cincinnati = (27-28)


Pittsburgh Steelers: @Baltimore, Cincinnati, New York Jets, Carolina, @Cleveland = (24-31)


New York Jets: @New England, Miami, @Pittsburgh, @Chicago, Buffalo = (33-22)


New England Patriots: New York Jets, @Chicago, Green Bay, @Buffalo, Miami = (32-23)

Obviously looking at the numbers, the Steelers have the easiest schedule in terms of combined opponents record, but it is all up to opinion on who you consider a real threat to the team. Have your say below:

 

Till next time, peace and love from Kiwi Land

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