These appear to be exciting times. Not only are we able to witness the ever-evolving human drama that has become the life of the NFL player that engages in questionable family practices, we also get to watch the drama that unfolds on the field. Which, as I recall, is the reason we tune in every week. It’s not to hear about Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson. And the last thing we want to see is Roger Goodell fumbling through his excuses bag (although admittedly, this is often fun theater).
We want to see football. We want to talk about football. We want to experience it as closely as we can without actually being on the field.
Here’s the AFC North football stories from this past week, because, after all, it’s what we want.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
Thursday, September 11, 2014; 8:25pm
Final: Ravens 26, Steelers 6
Very few predicted a score this lopsided, as the Ravens, in what essentially amounted to a pick ’em game, had many reasons to be unfocused and undisciplined, but managed to pull it together and produce a quality win. Quarterback Joe Flacco rebounded from a ho-hum week one performance to throw two touchdown passes to new tight end Owen Daniels, while the defense applied consistent pressure on Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger most of the evening. The Steelers seemed to lose their rhythm offensively early via a backbreaking turnover by rookie wideout Justin Brown, and didn’t regain it for the remainder of the game. The Pittsburgh defense wasn’t at all effective against the run, allowing Ravens running backs Justin Forsett and Bernard Pierce to rush for a combined 152 yards on 30 carries.
Steelers: The Steelers travel to Charlotte to face the Panthers in a nationally-televised game (September 21, 8:30pm, NBC), where they’ll face the added pressure of stopping multi-talented quarterback Cam Newton.
Ravens: The Ravens will be saddled with their third AFC North divisional contest in as many weeks, this time in Cleveland (September 21, 1:00pm, CBS) against a rejuvenated Browns team looking to establish itself as a contender.
New Orleans Saints @ Cleveland Browns
Sunday, September 14, 2014; 1:00pm
Final: Browns 26, Saints 24
Head coach Mike Pettine celebrated his first win Sunday, as the Browns came from behind in the final seconds via a Billy Cundiff field goal. Despite the puzzling inclusion of rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, starter Brian Hoyer played an efficient and mistake-free game, connecting on 24 of 40 passes, including a pair of huge completions on the game-deciding drive. The defense did just enough to limit all-world Saints quarterback Drew Brees and equally-impressive tight end Jimmy Graham, who almost single-handedly kept the Saints in the game most of the day. Browns’ running backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell were effective for the second straight week, rushing for 122 yards on a combined 30 carries.
The Browns will host the 1-1 Ravens, and will be looking to limit the Ravens’ rushing attack to force inconsistent quarterback Joe Flacco to beat them.
Atlanta Falcons @ Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, September 14, 2014; 1:00pm
Final: Bengals 24, Falcons 10
Proving that the Bengals are more than just wideout A.J. Green, who was injured early, quarterback Andy Dalton used a balanced attack to establish and maintain a lead for most of the game. Of particular note was running back Giovani Bernard’s 169 combined yards from scrimmage, including 90 on the ground. The Bengals defense did the rest, forcing Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan into three interceptions (two by safety George Iloka), and limiting the Atlanta ground game to 97 total yards. Ryan was sacked twice, once by standout defensive end Carlos Dunlap This game would have been more of blowout had kicker Mike Nugent connected on more than one of his four field goal attempts; perhaps the only concern on an otherwise excellent day for the Bengals overall.
The Bengals will host the reeling Tennessee Titans (September 21, 1:00pm, CBS) in what should amount to an easy Bengals win.