AFC North Week Three Predictions

AFC North Week Three Predictions
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Welcome to the AFC North weekly predictions!


Each week, our AFC North feature writers will list their picks for that week and be forced to explain why they voted as they did. Keep in mind that these picks are for entertainment purposes only, and in no way should be used to influence gambling or illegal activity, unless you’re smart enough to recognize that we know more than you because we publish things.


Your AFC North prognosticators collectively went 6-2 last week, with Michael Thompson and Peatwo both going 2-0. Jack Crawford and Wernicke Korsakoff both batted .500, which is very impressive when compared to the Orioles’ record down the stretch.


Week Three games:


Baltimore Ravens (2-0) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2), 1PM

Cleveland Browns (0-2) @ Miami Dolphins (0-2), 1PM

Denver Broncos (2-0) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-1), 1PM

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) @ Philadelphia Eagles (2-0), 4:30PM


This week features two AFC matchups that could hold important playoff seeding implications, one game that looks like a race for the number one overall draft pick, and a tepid in-state rivalry featuring rookie Hall of Fame QB Carson Wentz.


Jacksonville can put up points in a hurry, but Blake Bortles is prone to mistakes. Can the Ravens’ secondary contain the Jaguars’ offense? Will the Ravens’ offense find any production in the run game?


Rookie QB Cody Kessler makes his first start for the Browns against a weak secondary. Can the Browns rely on their run game against Miami to help him out?


Denver has proven it can still get to the QB, and the Bengals’ offensive line has been a sieve so far this season. Can a battered Andy Dalton survive long enough to find open receivers? Will the Bengals’ defense be able to take advantage of inexperienced Denver QB Trevor Siemian?


Rookie Eagles QB Carson Wentz has received plenty of praise while facing below average competition. The Steelers won’t be traveling with a stifling defense they were once known for, but can the Eagles keep up with Ben and the Steelers’ unrelenting offense?


On to the predictions!


Jack Crawford’s picks (5-1):

Baltimore @ Jacksonville

Momentum and talent are everything, and right now, the Ravens have a bit one the former and are still lacking in the latter.  The Ravens have actually been stout defensively and have been able to cobble together enough offense to barely outscore their first two opponents.  Quarterback Joe Flacco has been passable, but the running game has been unreliable – two terms that don’t serve to inspire.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, have appeared woeful, which belies the amount of talent they’ve actually stockpiled in recent years.  I suspect this is more of an indictment of embattled coach Gus Bradley than it is a determination about the roster, which boasts several young first round picks, many of whom are still finding their way in the NFL.  Their path will be clear on Sunday.
Ravens 20, Jaguars 28


Denver @ Cincinnati
Cincinnati’s mad.  Mad about losing to Pittsburgh again.  Mad at the referees.  Mad at themselves.  They still believe in their roster, they say, and in quarterback Andy Dalton.  And they say they have the key to beating last season’s Super Bowl winners.  To quote an old movie, “Don’t drive angry.”
The Broncos will have to suffer through almost-rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian’s first road start of the season against a possible AFC playoff contender – and one that’s mad.  Expect the Bengals to blitz often off the edges to limit Siemian’s rollouts and motion, which are staples of the Denver offense.
Bengals 31, Broncos 24


Cleveland @ Miami
Ugh.  The silver lining is that someone has to win.  For the Browns, the good news is that their offense showed real signs of life under quarterback Josh McCown.  The bad news is that McCown will not play, as rookie Cody Kessler will become the Browns’ 26th starting quarterback since 1999.  Kessler does have the advantage of being tutored by head coach Hue Jackson, who – we assume – drafted Kessler for a reason.
The Dolphins sport the more-talented roster and are 10-point favorites, but have yet to show any real cohesion and are subject to the head-scratching gaffes of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who appears to have regressed, although his play has rarely been more than acceptable.  As in many years past, the Dolphins appear to be a failed chemistry experiment.
Browns 27, Dolphins 17


Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia
The Steelers will be the latest team to take a crack at rattling rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who has performed adequately to this point.  The Steelers’ defensive unit should be up to the task, but even if they’re not, the real challenge will be for the Eagles to limit the Steelers offensively.
There are reports of this being a high-scoring contest, but it’s starting to shape up as one-sided as it appears the Eagles are a bit overrated – especially in Philadelphia.  Expect another track meet for the Steelers offensively.
Pittsburgh 35, Eagles 24


Michael Thompson’s picks (5-1):

Baltimore @ Jacksonville

Ravens 21, Jaguars 17


Cleveland @ Miami

Dolphins 35, Browns 7


Denver @ Cincinnati

Broncos 27, Bengals 21


Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia

Steelers 35, Eagles 14


peatwo’s picks (4-2):

Baltimore @ Jacksonville

What happens when a semi-confident Ravens (2-0) defense travels to play an underperforming Jags team expected to contend for the AFC South title? A potential disaster for the Ravens in Southern Georgia.  Historically the Ravens tend to lay an egg against average to bad teams on the road, and tend to help struggling teams reach their potential. If the Ravens can stay away from the big play on defense, and turnovers/lethargy on offense this time, they might pull out a win. It doesn’t help that the Jags also have offensive weapons, at least through the air, so we will see if that #1 Ravens passing defense is more about the opponents or more about talent and scheme.  I’m going with recent history, the fact that Dean Pees is still the defensive coordinator, and that Mark Tressman will continue to make horrible play-calls in 3rd/4th and short. If you see a misdirection halfback toss, which looks like an RB running a naked bootleg, don’t be shocked…  and don’t be shocked to see it run way more than once whether it works the first time or not.

Ravens 17, Jaguars 26


Cleveland @ Miami

3rd QB is a charm? We shall see if the Browns 3rd round pick Cody Kessler is up for the challenge. The Cleveland travels to Miami starting their 5th quarterback in their last 5 regular season games, which has to be some sort of record. The good news is there isn’t much pressure, as expectations of the 3rd round rookie (projected to be a 2016 work in progress) are low for this game. And with the team starting 0-2, expectations of a decent 2016 Browns campaign are justifiably low after losing two starting quarterbacks in successive weeks.
The Dolphins have also lost in consecutive weeks, but with their first 2 games in Seattle and New England, 0-2 was likely the expectation. The disappointing aspect to Dolphins fans was that they laid an egg against their divisional rival last week, and were up four with 31 seconds left in week 1, and gave up just 12 points in the loss.
I expect the Dolphins to come out swinging in their first home game of the year, although my guess is the crowd will be sparse unless Browns fans travel well this week.
Dolphins 27, Browns 17


Denver @ Cincinnati

Does Cincinnati dare drop back to pass 50+ times against the Broncos defense? Andy Dalton hopes not. If they do, the Broncos offense might not need to do much after sacks and turnovers put Denver in great scoring position, if not into the end zone.
This game will be about the Bengals establishing the run and stopping the run. The Broncos defense is lightning quick, but it can be moved. The Colts, not known for their offensive line, rushed to the tune of 4 yards per carry. Unfortunately, like the Bengals early this season, Indy was too pass happy (2 to 1 pass to run) and the Broncos made them pay. Carolina took a different approach and ran the ball down the Broncos throats for 157 yards and 5 yards per carry and easily could have won their game.  My bet is the Bengals run the ball early and often to tire the Broncos defense built for speed and high altitude.
Bengals 17, Broncos 13


Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia

Eagles fans should be as obnoxious as ever cheering on rookie Wonder Boy Carson Wentz as he goes up against their instate rival who will be visiting Philly for the first time in 8 years.  Both teams are 2-0, and it doesn’t take much to make Eagles fans overconfident, but then again, it doesn’t take much for Eagles fans to consider jumping off a bridge (like two negative plays in succession).
Philly’s historical record in this matchup is surprisingly 47-28-3 (which does not include the “Steagles” era when the teams combined during WWII). What is more surprising is that the Steelers haven’t won in Philly since 1965.  Can that be right?   Its only 8 games, but still a shocker. So, either Pitt is due, or Philly continues its home field dominance. Its difficult to analyze either team this early in the season, especially when their opponents are a combined 1-8. The best win of the season has been the Steelers win over the Bengals. The other 3 games were complete duds. For that reason, I’ll take the Steelers.
Pittsburgh 24, Eagles 20


Wernicke Korsakoff’s picks (4-2):

Baltimore @ Jacksonville

The Ravens haven’t looked good or bad, but more like a middling 7-8 win team trying to find their feet. The undermanned Chargers shellacked Jacksonville last Sunday, 38-14. Expect the Ravens to continue struggling with consistency on both offense (poor run game, offensive line play and play calling) and defense (inconsistent secondary, poor tackling, poor play calling) while the Jaguars play more like the team that took Green Bay to the wire in week one.

Jaguars 27, Ravens 20


Cleveland @ Miami

Josh McCown provided a spark for the offense, but he’s out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. The Browns will rely on RB Isiah Crowell to shoulder the load and take pressure off of rookie QB Cody Kessler, which may prove difficult against the Dolphins’ front. The Dolphins’ defense is, in general, weak, falling behind big last week against backup QB Janeane Garofalo early, then allowing 7th round rookie QB Jacoby Brissett to score before the offense finally woke up. Between two struggling teams, the rookie QB is the difference.

Dolphins 21, Browns 17


Denver @ Cincinnati

Broncos QB Trevor Siemian faces his first away game, albeit in Cincinnati, which isn’t known for its rabid fans. Denver lost pass rusher DeMarcus Ware for the season last week, but Von Miller will still give the Bengals’ porous O line trouble. The key will be limiting mistakes and playing a field position game for Andy Dalton and the offense; over time, Cincinnati will make more plays than Siemian or Denver’s defense. Look for Denver to continue being conservative in the red zone, while the Bengals lean more heavily on the run.

Bengals 23, Broncos 17


Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia

The Steelers’ run defense hasn’t been tested much this season. Philadelphia’s rush offense can be a challenge if the Eagles don’t fall behind quickly against the high-flying Steelers’ offense. Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been playing well, and even if it wasn’t, don’t expect rookie QB Carson Wentz to keep up with Ben. With added pressure, look for Wentz to make some costly mistakes.

Steelers 32, Eagles 24


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