AFC North Round-Up: Week One

First week in the books for the AFC North. In the AFC North and all around the league for that matter, many teams looked a bit rustier than the usual, and a few teams, namely Houston, Seattle and Kansas City, proved that the "Any Given Sunday" Rule is still very much alive in the modern era of the NFL.


The AFC North went 2-2 this week, a surprise that after last years bitter rivalries and hard hitting contests between the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals, that there was not an opening week rival game for the AFC North. The upside, was each of the AFC North teams excluding the Browns, got to match up against perennial playoff teams. 


Lets start it off:



Cleveland Browns 14 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

The toilet bowl game of the week, but hey there has to be one right? After showing a lot of promise in the early stages, the Browns did what they do best, find a way to lose a game that they were within reach of a win (and to be honest, a convincing win at that). The implosion began moments before the half when a Jake Delhomme pass was intercepted (wow, didnt see that coming), Tampa Bay took advantage and scored, and the Browns went into the locker room with their heads down and the Bucs crowd roaring. They would be shut out in the second half.

The Good:

- Peyton Hillis, Jerome Harrison. A standout performer in the preseason, Hillis was running downhill like a bull against the Bucs. He scored on a 12 yard touchdown, and finished with 41 yards on 9 carries. Likewise, Jerome Harrison continued his good form from the end of last season, and grabbed 52 yards on 9 carries himself, including an electric 39 yard gain.

The Bad:

- Jake Delhomme. After gaining the confidence of the Browns fan base and maybe just maybe instilling a little bit of hope, he ruined a great start for the Browns up 14-3, throwing an ugly back foot interception that resulted in Tampa Bay scoring just seconds before the half. Delhomme never recovered, throwing another interception and failing to put any points on the board for the Browns in the second half. 

The Head-Scratcher:

- You have two solid running backs looking in pretty good form during the game. So what does Cleveland's Offensive Co-ordinator do? Abandons the run. The Browns dialled in just 18 carries to running backs, and the Browns chose to let interception prone Delhomme throw 37 passes. This is why the Browns lose. As soon as things got a little rough, they end up pass pass pass. 

Surprise of the Game:

- The Browns defense. Not saying the Buccaneers offense is anything to write home about, but there were signs of life with 3 sacks, 1 interception and holding the Bucs under 300 yards of offense. Much of this was because the Bucs werent making a secret that they wanted to run the ball, but lets face it, last year, even when the Browns knew the run was coming they couldnt do anything. That was the only minor surprise of the game, but I doubt it will continue. 

Key Stat:

Browns were (-1) in the turnover count. Once again, turn the ball over more than your opponents, and you lose football games



Atlanta Falcons 9 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 15

A defensive slug fest between two teams who figure to have playoff aspirations this season. Atlanta was a trendy pick amongst bloggers and NFL experts around the league in maybe giving the Saints a run for the title in the NFC South. They traded defensive stands, field goals and both blundered opportunities to win the game when it was there for the taking through 4 quarters.. Not the most flashiest or spectator friendly game, but both teams were out there giving their all and thats all you can ask for. When it came to Overtime, the Steelers came up large, holding the Falcons to a 3 and Out, before their first offensive play saw Rashard Mendenhall take it 50 yards to the house for the win.

The Good:

- Commitment to running the football. Through four quarters Mendenhall had 70 yards on 21 carries for a reasonably pedestrian 3.3 yards per carry. When you run the ball that much, it tires out the defense, and eventually something will give. It gave in a big way. Mendenhall broke lose on the Steelers first offensive play for 50 yards, on the back of the best and most efficient blocking I have seen since the Superbowl XL run. 

- Steeler Defense is back baby. We had a performance that had me reminiscing about 2008, thats how good our defense looked. Timmons was an absolute beast, both Harrison and Woodley got in the sack column, Brian McFadden made tackle after tackle, and Polamalu continued his streak of opening day, highlight reel interceptions. If we can keep healthy, this is a championship calibre defense.

The Bad:

- Not to knock on his overall performance, but Dixon's stat line, and the final score, could have looked a lot different had some of those defenders not come down with a case of  "IkeStoneHanditis". Hes a young QB and is still learning, but man some of those throws were really ugly. 

The Head Scratcher:

- 5 Wide on a 3rd and 1. Only you Mr Arians. 

Surprise of the Game:

- For me, it was actually Dennis Dixons performance. I wasnt sure what I was expecting out of him to be honest, but when you look at the numbers (and ignore the Bad above) his stat line reads very nicely. 18/26 (70%) for 236 yards (9.1 ypa). Just so you know, only Jay Cutler had a better YPA in Week One. Not bad at all. He also had the throw of the game with his pinpoint bomb out to Mike Wallace

- To go the Falcons side, I just cant believe that the Falcons didnt play better on offense. All those weapons and they still struggled to gouge our defense. As the weeks move on we will see whether this team is a real contender or pretender, and Matt Ryan will have a big say in this. He just didnt look like he was relishing the big time moments out there.

Key Stat:

2.2. That was Michael Turners yards per carry average. Shutting him down made the much hyped Atlanta offense much more predictable and easier to defend. Ryan doesnt win many games throwing 40+ times. 



Cincinnati Bengals 24 @ New England Patriots 38

Well the Bengals were talked up a lot for this performance by many around the league, claiming that this would be an early statement game that would prove the Bengals are for real this season. Hah. The Bengals looked like the "Bungles" of old as they fell behind early 24 - 0 hole at Foxborough behind offensive ineptitude and lackluster defense. They outscored the Pats 21-14 in the second half after they decided to start slinging it, whilst the Patriots went conservative to preserve the win, Bengals going down by 14.

The Good:

- Not a lot was good to be honest. However it could be said that the duo of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco somewhat delivered on Sunday, as the two combined for 19 catches for 212 yards, majority of which coming from 85. Kind of inflated by the 50 passes that Carson Palmer attempted, but none the less, both T.O and Chad got their catches and made plays, even if they were facing rookie/2nd year cornerbacks....or that it was garbage time. Now we need to see them step up in a winnable game. 

The Bad:

The Cincinnati defense that shut down the AFC North offenses amongst others last season, looked incredibly pedestrian. Brady had all day to throw, and they failed to make one big play defensively. No sacks, No interceptions, No Forced Fumbles. Nada. Taylor found holes in the running game and Brady was able to pick apart the Bengals secondary at will. 

The Head Scratcher:

A hailmary at the end of the half couldve given Cincinnati a slight boost for the second half had it been successful. As rare as it is, it is not impossible. So why not have the two best catchers on your team running the streaks? Regardless of the fact that Jordan Shipley managed to come down with the ball short of the endzone, it still seems a little strange. Chad Ochocinco supposedly had already headed to the locker room for some rehab, but no such excuse for Owens. 

Key Stat:

Patriots missed two field goals and had the ball for 2 minutes less than the Bengals on defense, yet pulled out the win. One, the Patriots couldve scored more points, Two, Bengals had the chances yet coudnt muster anything





Baltimore Ravens 10 @ New York Jets 9

This so called "potential AFC championship preview" failed to deliver to its high expectations in terms of entertainment. Sure both teams battled exceptionally hard on defense and emotions ran high, but neither teams "improved offenses" could make a significant impact on the game. Football and defensive purists would have loved this game, as both teams proved they have the championship calibre defense to carry them to the playoffs.

The Good:

- Anquan Boldin. The blockbuster trade in the offseason proved to pay dividends, as Boldin was the only real sign of life amongst the Ravens receiving corps. He took advantage of being covered by legendary over - pursuer Cromartie, and the rookie Kyle Wilson. He made several key catches on 3rd down, and a couple highlight worthy grabs to help pad Flaccos stats. Hes proven to be in rhythm with the offense, which could be a dangerous thing for opposing defenses.

- Whether you -like- respect him or not, Ray Lewis was absolutely ballin out there last night. Flying to the ball carrier, drilling receivers for incompletions and pass rushing effectively, Ray Ray left it all out there. Its one thing to talk smack, but its another thing to back it up. I think Ray Lewis definitely did his part last night.

The Bad:

- Joe Flacco's final numbers werent bad, but he was clearly rusty. He struggled to find receivers not named Heap or Boldin (not even trusty Derrick Mason), got absolutely crushed on his first offensive play where his peripheral vision seemed to fail him badly, and he never recovered from that point. He had jittery feet, and was forcing the ball. His completion rate was barely over 50% and he threw an awful interception that was picked off at the goal line. Not to mention he also overthrew a wide open, unmarked receiver in the endzone. He still got the W, but there is serious work needing doing. 

The Head Scratcher:

- This one comes from the Jets. A reason why the Flacco/Mason combination stalled was because Mason found himself stranded on Revis Island. With Anquan Boldin absolutely schooling Kyle Wilson and Cromartie, I cant understand why they never lined up Revis with Boldin, especially when Boldin was getting hot. A few of those passes that Boldin brings in, Revis would have defended. I was scratching my head over this decision all day.

Surprise of the Game:

- Chris Carr take a bow. There were a number of times that Sanchez tried to pick on you deep and you held your ground and played a lot better than the majority of the league would have been expecting. For a guy whos been a career backup, he certainly looked like he belonged. 

Key Stat:

For all the Ravens misfires on offense, they still completed 11 of 19 third down attempts. The Jets only managed 1 of 11. Ravens ended up with more chances to score, and gave the Jets less.




Baltimore Ravens(1-0) @ Cincinnati Bengals(0-1)

Key early rivalry game for both teams. Ravens will look to pull out a win against another perennial playoff contender, and the Bengals will look to avoid an 0-2 start to the season, to keep pace with the Ravens and Steelers.

Ravens: 24 Bengals: 16


Pittsburgh Steelers(1-0) @ Tennessee Titans(1-0)

A battle of undefeated teams! Woot! Dennis Dixon looks to take advantage of his soaring confidence against a team that easily dispatced the Raiders last week. The real matchup here is Steeler D vs Chris Johnson. I like our chances.

Steelers: 16 Titans: 10


Kansas City Chiefs(1-0) @ Cleveland Browns(0-1)

Kansas City pulled probably the most popular win of Week One, taking down the Chargers with clutch big play after clutch big play. They will have too much firepower for the Browns. 

Chiefs: 27 Browns: 17




- Did the Jets/Ravens game remind anyone of the Steelers/Titans game last year? The Steelers and Titans were both widely considered amongst the AFC Championship favourites heading into the season, only for both to stumble and ultimately miss out. De Ja Vu? Maybe the Jets and Ravens are not who people thought they were

- I was 10/16 on the BTSC Pick'em. My misses were Cleveland (Yes...i know), Houston, Jacksonville, Seattle, Washington and Kansas City

- Oh how bitter the taste of being overrated. Im looking at you San Diego and San Francisco. Theres still plenty of time to go in the season to turn it around

- Can we please have common sense prevail in the NFL. Calvin Johnsons Touchdown was blatantly a case of overexcitement from a guy who just thought he had won the game for his team. He was always in control. A stupid chink in the armor of the rulebook ruins the integrity of the game.

- Player of the Week: Arian Foster. Burned the Colts and looked red hot. Never thought the Texans would win a game where Schaub throws <150 yards



Cheers guys. Stay tuned for the AFC North Round Up: Week Two, coming next week

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