As a Division, the AFC North went 3-1 in Week Three of the young NFL Season, with the Cincinnati Bengals the only losing team this week.
The Bengals were defeated last Sunday by the also struggling San Francisco ’49ers, 13-8. Maybe news that their star running back, Cedric Benson, would be suspended for three games was a distraction? Or maybe, the Bengals are just worse than the ’49ers. It was a home game for the Bengals, who played in front of a stadium that was only 1/3 of the way full. Unfortunately for Bengals fans, Ochocinco is no longer in town to buy out the rest of the tickets needed to avoid a television blackout.
A week after getting embarrassed by the Tennessee Titans – a team the Ravens should’ve dominated – Baltimore rebounded well with a blow-out of the St. Louis Rams, 37-7. Flacco threw for 389 yards and 3 touchdowns, all three, of which, were thrown to rookie receiver Torrey Smith, who made the first start of his young career against the Rams. In his rookie debut, Smith caught 5 passes for 152 yards and the 3 touchdowns.
Fans have to feel a little uneasy in Pittsburgh. They started the season by getting shut-down by Baltimore (35-0), but rebounded for a 24-0 route of the Seattle Seahawks. Despite the 23-20 victory over the woeful Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, the Steelers looked like a shell of their former selves. Sure there were plays made by their playmakers, but as a team overall, there’s not a lot to be excited about in Pittsburgh this year. Receiver Mike Wallace continues to impress, while quarterback Ben Roethisberger continues to struggle.
In Cleveland, the Browns attempted to renew the “Kardiac Kids” nickname earned during the 1980 season for their down-to-the-minute heroics, or failures. On Sunday, Colt McCoy was a hero, firing a 14-yard touchdown pass to receiver Mohammed Massaquoi for the game winning score, the second of the Browns season. McCoy was horrible for much of the game, but was great when it mattered most. Montario Hardesty stepped-in admirably for the missing Peyton Hillis, and provided a glimpse into the future for Browns fans.
So, after three weeks in the NFL, the AFC North is still crowded at the top.
Baltimore Ravens: 2-1, 1-0
Pittsburgh Steelers: 2-1, 0-1
Cleveland Browns: 2-1, 0-1
Cincinnati Bengals: 1-2, 1-0
Points For: Ravens (85), Steelers (54), Browns (61), Bengals (57)
Points Against: Ravens (40), Steelers (55), Browns (62), Bengals (54)
Up Next for the AFC North
Buffalo Bills (3-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)
– The Bills are the talk of the NFL, especially after their comeback win over the almighty New England Patriots. Cincinnati started the season with a controversial win over the Browns, but have lost for the second straight week. Cedric Benson should start his 3-game suspension handed down by Commissioner Goodell this week, leaving the Bengals in even more disarray. Bills continue their winning streak, 37-10, over the Bengals.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) at Houston Texans (2-1)
– Pittsburgh, a preseason Super Bowl favorite, looks anything but so far on the season. There are some legitimate concerns surrounding the Steelers, especially along the offensive line. So far on the season, Big Ben has been sacked 9 times, and has turned the ball over 7. On the season, Big Ben has only thrown for 3 touchdowns, leaving fans to wonder what’s going on in the Steel City. The Texans, despite a heartbreaking defeat to the Saints on the road this past week, are a team on the rise. A win on Sunday over the Steelers would give the Texans some much needed confidence heading into the rest of the season, and I think they’ll rebound for a huge win. Texans win , 31-20, over the Steelers
New York Jets (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
– This game should be one for the ages. Rex Ryan faces the Ravens for the 2nd time since leaving his defensive coordinator position to take the head coaching job for the Jets, but it’s his first meeting with his former team in Baltimore. Both teams pride themselves on defense, but don’t expect a defensive struggle in this one. The Jets gave-up 34 to the Raiders in a loss, while the Ravens have allowed only 3.5 points per game in wins this season. Ravens offense proves too much for the Jets; Ravens win, 24-14, over the Jets.
Tennessee Titans (2-1) at Cleveland Browns (2-1)
– For the second straight week, the Browns face a team at home. After last week’s (ugly) win against the Dolphins, the Browns offense needs to come out and establish a rhythm early on. The Defense is good enough to keep them in most games this year, but the offense needs to get it together. Hillis should return this week for the Browns, which is a huge boost for their offense. The Titans currently sport the 3rd rank team defense in the NFL, and will provide a tough test for McCoy & Co. Sticking to my sports superstition, I won’t give a score for the Browns, but I do expect a close game on Sunday.