Week two for the AFC North is chiseled in the stone now. What a Sunday. Miami upsets Minnesota, Chicago take it to Dallas, and a team we held to 9 points last week puts up 41 on Pittsburgh West. Once again, Any Given Sunday. Some teams found their groove after poor efforts in week one, others are seemingly in panic mode already after dropping into an 0-2 hole after promising so much in preseason.
This week we had our first AFC North Divisional game on show, between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens. Outside of that game, the North went 1-1, Pittsburgh again extinguishing another perennial playoff team, and the Browns again finding ways to lose to what should be inferior teams.
Now the Juice:
GAMEDAY WRAP UP
Kansas City Chiefs 16 @ Cleveland Browns 14
Different Quarterback. Same result. Jake "Int Prone" Delhomme was ruled out before Sunday's clash with the Kansas City Chiefs. On a good day Seneca Wallace can usually pull out some magic and rally a team, yet today was not this dog's day. However, I warn the Chiefs to not get ahead of themselves. They got by the Chargers with some huge plays and not much else, and returned to the sort of form we are used to seeing when facing the Browns. Leading 14-10 at the break, the Browns again found a way to be stymied on offense in the second half, and subsequently, let another winnable game slip through their grasp.
- Peyton Hillis deserves more praise after a second consecutive game playing some solid football on a weak team. He has a tough mentality and grind out the yards when called upon. He led the Browns in rushing despite 8 less carries than his counterpart Jerome Harrison.
- Josh Cribbs. The most electric, and possibly the only real playmaker on the entire Browns squad, they need to find more ways to get this guy the ball. He blew by the Chiefs defense on a 65 yard touchdown reception. The Browns havent used him out of the wildcat like they did last season, and their offense is lacking spark.
- Seneca Wallace. Different Quarterback, same result. As we have learnt from the Steelers, when your defense is playing well enough to keep you in games, the less BIG mistakes the better. He cant throw that pass to Brandon Flowers for the Pick 6 and expect to win with the talent on the Browns squad. Throw was straight up ugly. I will say that the offense looks more energized with Wallace on the field as opposed to Delhomme.
- Browns obviously learnt nothing from Week One. Once again they faltered in the second half and lost a game that was there to win. Poor play calling again was the downfall. A team like the Browns with their backup quarterback should not be throwing the ball 30+ times in a close encounter. Their offensive schemes are so basic, I think I could call a better game. Step it up, or get comfy in the basement.
Surprise of the Game:
- Seriously, this game was almost a mirror of last week in terms of what went well and what didnt. Did the Browns learn anything about their team? I am seriously starting to think that Eric Mangini will not last the season as the Browns head coach. Anyways, the Browns defense again had its moments grabbing 2 interceptions and not giving up any big plays, in fact the longest play against them was 27 yards. They are getting better, if only the Offense would keep them off the field people might actually start noticing it. They have however played 2 teams not expected to be in playoff contention.
9/78. Penalties/Yardage. Browns shot themselves in the foot many times during the game, and the discipline is costing them.
5. The number of winning teams from 2009 that the Browns have to play before the Bye. This team could and I expect WILL be 0-7 in five weeks time.
Pittsburgh Steelers 19 @ Tennessee Titans 11
Boy did things get heated before the game. How often can you say that teams not from the same division get to face each other in three consecutive regular seasons? The Steelers/Titans have had a bitter rivalry the last couple seasons, vying for the #1 seed two seasons ago, and opening the 2009 season last year in Pittsburgh in what was a bone crushing game for both. This game was everything that it was billed to be. An in-your-face, smashmouth, hard hitting affair between arguably two of the most physical teams in the league. The Steelers defense once again showed that it can keep games close while Ben is out, and ultimately, take over the game.
- So much good came out of this game its hard to pin point it down to any one or two aspects but I'll go with the obvious standouts. Antonio Brown. Brilliant call for the reverse Kickoff return to open the game and it was one of the most beautiful returns I have seen for quite some time. Executed perfectly, and what a way to start the game. The Titans had to begin the game chasing a 7 point deficit and never game close, regardless of a late garbage time push. Special Teams take a bow this week. There is more to the game than Offense and Defense
- Speaking of Defense, Your 2010 Steel Curtain. Dominating. Relentless. And at times, Unfathomable. Highlight play after highlight play was put out on a smörgåsbord for us to feast on today. Troy Polamalu with another key interception not to mention his incredible tackle of Kerry Collins on a sneak (Still speechless when watching that play.) Lamarr Woodley executing a beautiful fake blitz and drop to snag a VY pass, James Harrison and his relentless bullrush, Lawrence Timmons putting CJ2YPC over his lap and giving him an absolute spanking at times. I cant say enough about what this defense is capable of if we can stay healthy. 7 turnovers....7!!!
- Injuries. Through no fault of our own, but already down a few key players for this game (Starks, Leffwich, Hampton) we end up with another small handful of niggles with Dixon, Hoke and Farrior all hurting during the game. These little niggles can become bigger problems late in the season, so lets take the time against Tampa Bay to rest a little, and be manageable with our injury report.
- Dennis Dixon. When you win playing bad thats ok, as long as it doesnt become a liability. Hopefully he will be ok for Tampa Bays game because I think that will be his easiest test of the first four games. However, when the four games are over, I would be very surprised to see Dennis Dixon start a game at Quarterback again.
The Head Scratcher:
- This one is on the Titans. Pulling Vince Young....really? Kerry Collins came on and turned the ball over twice in three series. Fisher quickly rebuffs to make VY his starter for next week. Why bother coach. You played mind games with Vince once and look how it turned out. Ridiculous decision to pull him.
Surprise of the Game:
- The Defense containing Chris Johnson like they did. Dont get me wrong, I along with the majority of Steeler Nation knew and had the faith in our guys to stop CJ2YPC short of the century mark on the ground. But 34 yards?! Thats incredible. I know there was the 85 yard play, but if the Titans want to complain about blatant holdings, then I maintain that James Harrison finishes with 4 sacks per game. Outstanding performance by the Steel Run D and has many, including myself, believing that this will be one hell of a season.
2-0. We are first in the AFC North when many experts had us 0-2 at this point. An easier game versus the Tampa Bay Bucs looms ahead, so we will likely be at worst 3-1 with Big Ben returning. I think I just got a bulge in my pants.
Baltimore Ravens 10 @ Cincinnati Bengals 15
My my my....who would've thought. The consensus around BTSC over the offseason was that the Ravens were for real and the Bengals would stumble back to the shadows of mediocrity. Im no different either. This game surprised me in that the Bengals defense rebounded, and that the Ravens continue to struggle offensively. The Ravens did leave the Bengals touchdown-less, but at the same time, couldnt sustain drives and ultimately had only themselves to blame at the end of this one.
- For the Bengals, you had to like their defense. After being torched by the Patriots a week prior, they turned it around with a few more complex coverages which clearly confused Joe Flacco, forcing him into a career worst 4 interceptions, and sacking him once, although they had plenty of pressure in his face for much of the day.
- On the Ravens side, there wasnt a whole lot to take from this game. Ray Rice put up just shy of 120 total yards on the Bengals, and with 87 rushing yards showed that the ball can be run on the Bengals. Other than that, the Defense did its part holding Cincinnati to field goals instead of touchdowns, which is a positive.
- The Bengals still do not have a consistant offense which was what they lacked last year at crucial times. The running game despite being average today (Benson had 78 yards on 23 carries) has lacked the force and physicality that it had last year. No longer do you feel that the Bengals are setting the tone in games by being physical on either side of the ball. The Bengals are lacking an offensive identity, as Carson Palmer, despite improving his record versus Baltimore to 9-3, didnt show anything to make you believe he can lead this team on a playoff run.
- Likewise, Joe Flacco was just straight up terrible today. Clearly confused and frustrated by the Bengals defensive looks, he found himself forcing throws into coverage and paying the price. He did not look like the same Joe Flacco that flashed promise last year.
The Head Scratcher:
Cam Cameron has been heralded as an offensive mastermind in recent years, yet this year, his offense has been very stale through two games despite boasting some big free agent signings. The team doesnt seem to be playing to its offensive strengths right now, and I think youll find a surprising lack of creativity is missing from the Cam Cameron playbook. Either that or his new players are just not buying into the system.
+4. The turnover ratio in favor of Cincy. To be a John Madden, turn the ball over too much and you will lose. Simple as that.
LOOK AHEAD TO WEEK THREE:
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)
Contender versus Pretender. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers arent fooling me after beating Cleveland and Carolina, two teams with lackluster defenses and very poor offensive play. We should win this as long as we continue to play the way we have been. Smashmouth defense and careful offense.
Steelers: 24 Buccaneers: 6
Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) @ Carolina Panthers (0-2)
A trap game for the Bengals perhaps? I could dream. Unless the Panthers once feared rushing attack finds its feet, this one should be a win for our divisional rivals. Jimmy Clausen could appear early in this game should Matt Moore struggle, which definitely plays into the Bengals hands.
Bengals: 20 Panthers: 13
Cleveland Browns (0-2) @ Baltimore Ravens (1-1)
Second consecutive Divisional game for the Ravens and you'd have to be crazy to think they will drop two in a row. Particularly when their opponents are the Browns. This could well be the game that the Baltimore Ravens offense gets itself into gear. If they struggle again, they will have a hard time convincing anyone that they are contenders this season.
Ravens: 33 Browns: 6
- Wonder how Old Man Favre is feeling right now about coming out of retirement. Losing to Miami in the home opener whilst already eclipsing half his interception total through a mere two games has to have him asking himself if he made the correct decision.
- 10/15 so far this week on BTSC Pick 'em. My misses were Baltimore, Dallas, Minnesota, Carolina and New England.
- I see you Sam Bradford. You make some seriously good throws for a rookie. I have a feeling this guy will be the real deal very very soon. Take your lumps this season, and hopefully the Rams provide you with some more talent next season.
- Bruce Gradkowski. A forgotten name in the offseason for the Raiders, could he have seemingly benched Jason Campbell already this season after leading the Raiders to 13 second half points?
- Player of the Week (Sunday): Defensively it goes to both Clay Matthews and Troy Polamalu for their dominant performances for their respective teams. Matthews racked up 3 sacks (!!) for the second consecutive game (!!) and Troy just made play after play in the Titans game.
On offense, it goes to Jay Cutler. Give Martz some credit for his on the run game plan changes to accommodate for the immense pressure Cutler was receiving early on. The result? Just 1 sack from the pass rush happy Cowboys against the porous Bears O-Line, not to mention Cutler racked up 270 yards and three touchdowns to trounce the "Superbowl favourite" Cowboys.
Catch you next week.