AFC North Week 6: Breakdown & Match-ups
While the Ravens are home to take on the Houston Texans there are other games on the radar in the AFC North:
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)
Last week the Steelers bounced back. QB Ben Roethlisberger threw 5 TD passes. With RB Mendenhall out Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman ripped the Titans for 125 yards. Dwyer had a 76 yard run. Those offensive numbers are impressive, especially playing the Tennessee Titans who were on a roll on both sides off the ball. The Steelers defense ranks 1st in the NFL versus the pass.
Despite Jacksonville’s efforts to sign some known veterans in free agency, this team is in a rebuilding stage. The defense is ranked 10th against the pass and 10th against the run. While they are not playing terrible, there are no playmakers stepping up to change the outcomes of games. Offensively, the passing game is going through growing pains with starting rookie QB Blaine Gabbert. In 4 games Gabbert has (3 TD’s, 2 Int.’s, 9 sacks). The offense is ranked 31st in points scored (11.8 pts. per game) and ranked 32nd in passing yards (150.0). The one constant is running back Maurice Jones-Drew who has rushed for 496 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per attempt.
Forecast: Gloomy for Jaguar fans. Any hope for Jacksonville is to give the ball to Jones-Drew and try to run their way to a win. The Steelers should roll through Jacksonville and keep the heat on Baltimore.
Projected Score: Pittsburgh 34 – Jacksonville 13
Cleveland Browns (2-2)@ Oakland Raiders (3-2)
Cleveland has been going through drama lately. There is some controversy focusing around Peyton Hillis missing a game a few weeks ago and it has created a stir. To add to the drama, DE Marcus Benard broke his hand in a motorcycle accident and faces two felony charges. He’s done for the season because of the injury. Football wise Cleveland’s secondary is ranked 4th against the pass. However, the unit is ranked 25th versus the run and that doesn’t bode well against the Raiders run game (Derrick McFadden and co.) who are raked 2nd in the league in rushing yards (161.8) per game.
Cleveland needs to get back to running the ball. Colt McCoy is having success but this is an offense that is out of balance; McCoy has 172 passing and RB Hillis 54 attempts ( RB Hardesty 29 att.). Hard to believe that with a back like Hillis they are ranked 27th in rushing yards (85.8 yards per game).
Oakland is coming off an emotional win with the passing of the legendary owner Al Davis, beating the Texans in Houston last Sunday.
Forecast: Sunny for Oakland. There is too much drama in Cleveland and not enough focus on football, that could hurt this team traveling West. The good news is that Cleveland is coming off the ‘bye’ week and should make a game of it. The Raiders are playing their first home game since the passing of Al Davis and the sell out crowd will be fired up.
Projected score: Oakland 27 – Cleveland 23
Indianapolis (0-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)
Right now Indy is facing some huge problems on defense, let alone the quarterback position. They rank near the bottom in every important stat, offense and defense. One stat that stands out is that this team can’t run the ball or stop the run. The unit ranks 31st versus the run (145.2 yards per game). The offense ranks 30th in rushing 82.0.. QB Curtis Painter seems like he should have been starting in the first place.
Now Indy goes to Cincinnati to face a good rushing attack in Cedric Benson and a rookie QB who is holding his own in Andy Dalton. Rookie receiver A.J. Green has been great, leading the team with 24 receptions, 402 yards, 3 TD’s. The defense has really been impressive. The Bengals defensive unit are ranked 1st in total yards allowed (279), 3rd against the pass (191,) 6th in points allowed (18.8), 7th against the run (88.6).
Forecast: Ugly for Indy. Indy has been plagued with a string of injuries and are facing an up hill fight this year. Running back Joseph Addai is expected to miss this contest (hamstring injury). So far the Bengals defense has to be one of the better unit’s in the NFL and the team’s offense is impressive.
Projected score: Cincinnati 31 – Indy 10
Additional comment: What gives Bengals fans? The team is winning and they are better than expected. But, this game will be blacked out. In fact, it will make their 7th blackout in a row.