AFC North Round Up: Week Three

3-0 never tasted so good. You know what would taste better though? Smoked Raven on a platter. I'm licking my chops just thinking about the chance, and I know others are thinking the same. Well, here we go. The Ravens come to town in just under a week.

Back to Week Three, another solid week all around for the AFC North. The three potential playoff hopefuls all pulled out wins, and the Browns again resigning themselves to the AFC North basement. Its lonely down there, and its been a fair few years since they managed to lock themselves in.

Once again, the Steelers went into battle minus #7, and once again, the defense stepped up to destroy the opposing offense. The difference here was, the offensive game-plan was much better, and we put in a very good all around performance to put the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their place, and their first loss of the season.

Running out of witty things to say, so stuff it, heres the jump:



Cincinnati Bengals 20 @ Carolina Panthers 7

Cincinnati went on the road to Carolina to try and find a little rhythm. A terrible loss in week one, an unimpressive win, but win nonetheless at home against the Ravens in week two, this was the week that they had a chance to beat up on a lesser team, with a rookie quarterback on debut. In the end it was another lackluster performance from the Bengals offensivley, but with the defense nullifying the Panthers attack, they didnt exactly have to play stellar, and the Bengals came out of Week Three with a healthy 2-1 record.

The Good:

Not a lot to see here folks. But it goes to the defensive effort. This couldve easily been a trap game for Cincinnati, but the defense held true and didnt get complacent facing a rookie quarterback in his first start. Despite allowing 6.4 yards per carry for Deangelo Williams, they made the Panthers one dimensional and stepped up big on 3rd downs (The Panthers were just 2/11 on 3rd down). They brought the heat and made Clausen uncomfortable and he never got a rhythm. They were expected to win, and they did just that.

The Bad:

If I was a Bengals fan, I would be very concerned about Carson Palmers play so far this season. He has been very mediocre in two wins, and was awful for one half against the Patriots, before they played safe and allowed Palmer to pad stats in the second half. Palmer just doesnt look like he has it anymore. He has no excuses this season with all the offseason acquisitions and a better than average offensive line. If the Bengals fail to finish above .500 this season, I really wouldnt be surprised to see them draft a new Quarterback of the future.

The Head Scratcher:

I would chuck Carson Palmer and the Bengals offensive ineptitude here, but Ive talked enough about that. For me in this game it was the Panthers offense. They were having success with Deangelo Williams on the ground, yet they still made Clausen throw the ball 33 times when the game wasnt exactly out of reach. Not the easiest way to make your first start, in an offensive imbalance. The fact that Williams is on my fantasy team is completely irrelevant....

Surprise of the Game:

Jimmy Clausen. A bit better than I expected from him against the vaunted Cincy secondary. He could make a few believers this season amongst the Panthers fanbase and who knows, if he shows enough progression during the season, it may just save John Fox's job for another season.

On the Cincy side, what is happening to their running game? A measely 3 yards per carry for Cedric Benson. The power running aspect is missing this season, and it certainly hasnt got me scared as of yet.

Key Stat:

36:22. The Bengals contolled the clock and sustained drives. The same cannot be said about the Panthers. The defense interrupted the Panthers offensive rhythm and kept them off the field. 


Pittsburgh Steelers 38 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

Trap game? Matchup of undefeated teams? You could spin this one any way you wanted to before the game. Many outside Steeler Nation thought that the Steelers may struggle more with their "4th string" quarterback against an opportunistic defense. In the end, the Steelers returned to the site of their magical Superbowl XLVIII victory, and could not be stopped. Had the team not eased off, this couldve been a much uglier game for the Bucs. 

The Good:

Charlie Batch, I am sorry I ever doubted you. I had no issue with you starting this game, but I was a doubter in the offseason who thought that the Quarterback derby shouldve come down to only Dixon and Leftwich. Thats not to say I do not appreciate what has happened in the past, I really though this year may have been it. You went out there and played like a 25 year old again, showing energy, zip on your passes and for the most part, you made good decisions. No longer did we have to suffer through two games of scraping through on offense. Charlies final stat line: 12/17 (70%) for 186 yds, 3 tds, 2 ints. Not bad at all. Not to mention the majority of that occured in the first thirty.

The Bad:

Not starting Mike Wallace in my fantasy league. I am disappoint.

The Head Scratcher:

Post game wise. Where to now for our quarterbacks? Do we cut Leftwich? Do we IR Dixon? Should we trade Ben and take our chances with the reincarnation of Charlie Batch? Should I just stop talking?!

Surpise of the Game:

Brett Keisel's wheels! The big guy proved he can run and had a few nice cut backs. Grabbing his first career interception and returning it 79 yards for a score is something I wouldnt have believed. 

Come to think of it, there were a few interesting stat lines. 4 sacks, none for Woodley or Harrison. Keisel with the INT return. 

Plus a shout out here for Bruce Arians. Again a couple interesting calls, but you and Batch took advantage of some inexperience and complacency on the defensive side and made some plays. I tip my hat to you sir, but I still hate you.

Key Stat:

6-3. The Win-Loss record of the three teams the Steelers have played. Those 3 losses, are the Steelers three wins. Our opponents are 6-0 in games not played vs the Steelers. 


Cleveland Browns 17 @ Baltimore Ravens 24

In the second AFC North Divisional game of the season, I really didnt see this outcome coming the way it did. Cleveland Browns once again found themselves [surprisingly] leading heading into the 4th quarter just to relinquish it late in the game. But hey, they were more competitive than I gave them credit for. In the end, the Ravens offense, especially Joe Flacco, bounced back after a loss to the Bengals and one upped their record to 2-1, good for third thus far in the AFC North. 

The Good:

For the Ravens: Joe Flacco rebounded to have a solid game for the Ravens, throwing three touchdowns and managed to have an interception free game for the first time this season. Nothing like facing the Cleveland Browns defense after a rough game huh? Flacco completed 70% of his passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns to Anquan Boldin, who I will also mention here. Boldin has been everything that the Ravens wanted so far this season, and on Sunday he hauled in 8 grabs for 142 yards and all three Flacco touchdowns. 

For the Browns: I have been saying it all season so far, and I will say it again. Peyton f'ing Hillis. With Jerome Harrison out, it was all Hillis's show, and he absolutely smoked the Ravens, rushing for 144 yards on 22 carries (good for 6.5ypc) which is unheard of in terms of the Ravens rush defense. I was a fan of Hillis's in Denver, and he is showing he has the goods to be a real John Riggins type workhorse for the Browns. 

The Bad:

Ray Rice suffered a knee injury in the game initially diagnosed as a sprain. If they lose their workhorse, or even suffer a letdown in performance, it could really hurt the Ravens in the long run.

For the Browns, another day, another 4th quarter lead relinquished. This could have been the upset of the week if not for the offense sputtering late and the defense letting the Ravens drive for 10 unanswered points late in the 4th.

The Head Scratcher:

Where did the Ravens defense disappear to in this one? Not only did they allow a 100 yard rusher in over 16 games to someone not named Cedric Benson, they allowed 140 yards! They also allowed Seneca Wallace to complete 66% of his passes and failed to intercept him

Surprise of the Game:

Aside from Hillis's performance on the ground, you have to like the effort the Browns gave on the road. Despite losing three straight to open the season, their average margin of defeat is a mere 4 points. They arent getting blown out, and they could with a bit more execution, be 3-0. This is why we love them though, they find ways to lose when perhaps they shouldnt. They are a better team, and theres actually upside to this team. Who wouldve known?

16th. The Cleveland Browns defensive rank. The reason why games are close, is because they have actually improved vastly on defense so far this season. That includes 12th against the pass and 20th against the run.

Key Stat:

6. The number of consecutive games the Browns have to play against teams with winning records from last season. The could easily be 0-9 in 7 weeks time (they have the Bye in that span). 




Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) @ Cleveland Browns (0-3)

I'm feeling a little crazy. I'm not sure what the status is on Jerome Harrison or Jake Delhomme for the Brownies, but I think this could be a W for Browns in the battle of Ohio. If they just stick to what has been working, Hillis running the ball and playing safe at Quarterback, this could be a win. The flipside is that Cincy and Carson Palmer could finally find a rhythm against the Browns, much like the Ravens did. Call me crazy but.....

Browns: 17 Bengals: 14


Baltimore Ravens (2-1) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0)

Here we go. Baltimore and the Steelers. Probably the greatest divisional rivalry in all football over the last 3-5 years. Forget how the Ravens have played so far this season, they will come to play. The Ravens defense will however only have to deal with Charlie Batch instead of the usual Big Roethlisberger, but then again, it has been a long time since they tasted victory at Heinz Field. I say we make them wait a little longer.

Steelers: 13 Ravens: 10



- As I write this, I am watching the Bears vs Packers game on MNF. I tell you what, Aaron Rodgers vs Jay Cutler is one hell of a viewing spectacle. Both throw the best deep balls in the game. Aaron Rodgers is still the better of the two however. Shame we have to wait 3 more seasons to have another shot against him. Last years Green Bay game was one of the most entertaining I have ever watched.

- Shocking week for me on the BTSC Pick em. If the Packers win, I'll still only have 9 points this week. Meh.

- If you told me before the season that Austin Collie would be the league leader in catches and yards after three weeks I wouldve called a mental hospital. If you said Arian Foster would be leading the league in Rushing, I wouldve said "Who?". This is why I love football though. People are always rising and falling in the league. Some will only have on shot.

- The NFL lost two men this week. First Broncos rookie Wide Receiver Kenny McKinley took his own life, and then we lost George Blanda, who was a true blue collar player in both the NFL and AFL leagues. Take a time to think about both the tragedy of a young man who promised so much departing our world, and one who gave so much to the game we love, finally being laid to rest. RIP

- Players of the Week (for Sunday):

Defensively, Demarcus Ware. 3 sacks never goes unnoticed, especially to me. He was double teamed with a OL and TE, and he still found ways to exploit the protections. Houston did all it could, it just wasnt enough.

Offensively, Michael Vick. Hate him or love him, he is playing better than ever, despite everything that has happened to him in recent memory. Everyone deserves a shot at redemption, this coming from an adamant dog lover. I hated him at the time, but I cant help but respect the man for turning his life around.

Its not how you fall, its how you get back up again.

See you all next week. Thanks for all the positives you guys have been giving me about this series. It makes it so much easier to write. Cheers. 

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