What a difference seven short days makes in the National Football League. Not to pick on anybody for sharing what was on their mind last week in the wake of the Steelers heartbreaking 23-20 home loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but I could only shake my head when I read anything that suggested that Pittsburgh's Week 10 road game against the Bengals was a do-or-die situation if the six-time Super Bowl champions hoped to return to the playoffs for the fourth time in five years since Mike Tomlin was named head coach.
Sorry but that's bologna. Eight weeks is an eternity in this league, and a 1.5 game lead is the furthest thing from insurmountable over a two month stretch. I do think though that part of the anxiety about this past Sunday can be attributed to most believing that the Baltimore Ravens would improve to 7-2 easily by dismantling the Seattle Seahawks up here in the Emerald City.
Not so fast. The Ravens were overwhelmed by the Seahawks and nearly got run off the field in their 22-17 loss. Had Seattle not had to settle for five field goals, that could have easily been a 35-plus point game for Seattle. Anyway, bottom line is anything can and will happen in this league. Each game from here on out is obviously important, but the race for the AFC North crown is not over until it has been mathematically clinched by one of the three primary contenders through ten weeks -- the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals. After this past Sunday, don't expect any one of the three squads to run away with the division.
To the updated standings and what unfolded for each of the four AFC North teams in Week 10.
|Team||Record||Div. Record||Conf. Record||Streak||Scoring Differential|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||7-3||1-2||5-3||Won 1||+ 41|
|Baltimore Ravens||6-3||2-0||5-2||Lost 1||+ 73|
||4-2||Lost 1||+ 48|
|Cleveland Browns||3-4||0-1||2-4||Lost 3||- 52|
AFC Standings Through Week 10:
Houston Texans (7-3)
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3)
New England Patriots (6-3)
Oakland Raiders (5-4)
Baltimore Ravens (6-3)
- Cincinnati Bengals (6-3)
- Record: 7-3
Week 8 Result: 24-17 W at Cincinnati Bengals
- How they did it: The Steelers played a solid, if not spectacular game on the road against an opponent that was riding a five-game winning streak. Pittsburgh outgained the Bengals 328 to 279, converted three of its four red zone trips into touchdowns, forced two turnovers defensively, and benefited from the very nice work turned in by recently re-signed punter Jeremy Kapinos. There was nothing extraordinarily impressive about the win, but good teams find ways to notch wins on the road in ho-hum fashion over the course of a long 16-game regular season. The Steelers did just that this past Sunday.
- Next Two Weeks: Bye week, @ Kansas City
- Record: 6-3
- Week 8 Result: 22-17 L at Seattle Seahawks
- How they did it:Very odd game out in Seattle late Sunday afternoon between the Ravens and Seahawks. Seattle could have run them right out of the building had they not been 1-of-5 inside the red zone. The Ravens allowed Marshawn Lynch to record his second straight 100-yard rushing performance. It took Lynch 32 carries to get to 109 yards, but that commitment to the run kept the clock running and helped Seattle win the time of possession battle by over 10 minutes. I think Pittsburgh might be wise to take a page out of that playbook in the future. Even if the sledding is tough, there's some value to playing a grind-it-out game with Baltimore and making it tough for Joe Flacco to find his rhythm.
- Next Two Weeks: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, vs. San Francisco 49ers
- Record: 6-3
Week 8 Result: 24-17 L vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
- How they did it: I was fairly impressed with Andy Dalton. He certainly is committed to getting the ball out quickly. The Steelers did not sack Dalton once because of it, but I think over time, Dalton's going to have to allow things to materialize a bit longer before getting the ball out. If not, they're passing game will be too predictable -- quick hitting slants, curl routes and the occasional shot down the field to the sensational wide receiver talent A.J. Greene. Give credit to the Bengals' offensive line though. They played well enough for Cincinnati to accomplish some things offensively. The Bengals are on the right path, but they're not there yet.
- Next Two Weeks: at Baltimore Ravens,
- Record: 3-6
Week 8 Result: 13-12 L vs. St,. Louis Rams
- How they did it: The Browns have lost four straight and five of their past six to officially erase any memory of their encouraging 2-1 start to the year. Sunday's loss to the Rams might have been the hardest one for Browns' fans to stomach. A botched snap on a 22-yard Phil Dawson field goal attempt with just over two minutes to play allowed the Rams to leave Cleveland with their first road win of the season. The Browns have scored just 57 points during their losing streak, and have scored more than 17 just once this season (27 in Week 2 win over Indianapolis). I suppose the growing pains for the Browns in Pat Shurmur's west coast offense are not yet over with.
- Next Two Weeks: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, at Cincinnati Bengals