AFC North Week 6 in Review

AFC North Week 6 in Review
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Week six was yet another exciting and unpredictable adventure in the AFC North. Those who picked two blowouts and a tie, head to your local casino or lottery outlet and parlay that luck into real money.  Immediately after Sunday’s games ended, the aftermath of week six sparked many questions about each team and where they are heading.

Here is how they went:

Sunday, October 12th, 1:00pm Final: Cleveland Browns 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 10

Is there a changing of the guard? Is this finally year three of the annual Browns slogan: “we are just two years away!”? The Browns dominated the Steelers on the scoreboard the past Sunday, and over their last six quarters of play, have outscored Pittsburgh 55-6 before a meaningless touchdown by the Steelers late in Sunday’s game.  The Browns continued their high after their NFL record comeback versus the Tennessee Titans the week before.

This game was a blowout on the scoreboard, but there was no indication in the statistics that the score should have been so lopsided.  The teams were separated by just nine yards, turnovers were even, the Browns had one more sack, and the Steelers owned the time of possession 33:05 to 26:55. The difference was red zone efficiency and 3rd and 4th down conversions (and some nice play action plays, two resulting in a, 51-yard touchdown and a 42 yarder from Brian Hoyer to Jordan Cameron, which was close to half of the passing offense). The Browns scored 21 points on three trips to the red zone, while the Steelers kicked one field goal in their three opportunities. The Steelers were just 6-16 in 3rd down conversions, and 0-2 on 4th down attempts.

What can we take away from this one? The Browns will have confidence after beating their nemesis, and should be cautiously optimistic that they could be 6-2 at the season’s halfway point. No small feat for a team who hasn’t won 6 games in a season since 2007. The Steelers aren’t as doom and gloom as some think they are. at least not yet. Sure there are plenty of questions to be answered, and they are paper thin at some key positions, but they still have talent on each side of the ball, and are 3-3 despite the poor play. Hold off on the “gut the coaching staff” talk… at least for another few weeks.

What’s Next?

The Browns fly to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars, and believe it or not, is possibly their toughest match up over the next three weeks. (Oct. 19, 1:00pm, CBS).

The Steelers host the Houston Texans in Prime Time. (Oct. 20, 8:30pm)

Sunday, October 12th, 1:00pm Final: Baltimore 48, Tampa Bay 17

Another NFL record fell this week: Joe Flacco threw for 5 touchdowns 16 minutes into the game. Tampa Bay look like the same team who played Atlanta three weeks ago on Thursday night.  As you can imagine, the game was never in doubt after that. Are the Ravens getting more comfortable with the Gary Kubiak offense? Are they still just inconsistent?

It wasn’t all rosy for the Ravens. On the plus side, despite all of the apparent success through the air, they actually had a balanced attack and ran for over 80 yards in the first quarter despite four touchdown passess from Joe Flacco. Their offensive line held up well, and Lardarius Webb seems to be inching closer to his pre-injury form.  In addition, the Ravens enjoyed a 5-0 sack advantage, and Joe Flacco showed quick decision making when he was under pressure whether in the pocket or on the run. On the negative side, over the last two and a half quarters, the defense gave up 360 yards and 17 points.  Sure there tends to be a letdown during a blowout as the coaching staff shuffles in defensive replacements to keep people healthy, but that is a game’s worth of yardage.

What’s Next?

The Ravens come home to face the Atlanta Falcons (Oct. 19, 1:00pm, Fox) to take on Matt Ryan and Falcons

Sunday, October 12th, 1:00pm Final: Cincinnati Bengals 37, Carolina Panthers 37

Yet another NFL record fell, and is a record that kids dream of breaking when they think of themselves in an NFL uniform. Yes the “highest scoring tie in NFL history” record was eclipsed in this one, breaking the previous 34-34 tie between rival Pittsburgh and the next Ravens opponent the Atlanta Falcons back in 2002.  What’s wrong with the Bengals defense? Is there a little more doubt creeping in after three weeks of looking like the best team in the NFL?

This one had everything. A 97-yard Adam Jones kickoff return, almost 950 total yards from scrimmage, 513 from an AJ Green-less Bengals team, Cam Newton running through the Bengals down the stretch, a couple of timely missed field goals, and two scores in overtime. The Bengals defense struggled once again, but there were also two key interceptions thrown by Andy Dalton (one leading to a Panthers touchdown and another to a missed field goal), and a Mike Nugent 36-yard miss to end the game in a tie. Speaking of ties, the knee-jerk reaction in this one was to scold the Carolina coaching staff and their lack of “moxy” by playing for the tie. For a second it seemed plausible that they made the right call because they lead their division, and they were on the road where the home team hadn’t  lost since 2012. But then cooler heads prevailed. Each team had only punted ONCE in 75 minutes of play, and both teams were moving the ball at-will against tired defenses. And Cincy did just that. They just happened to shank a kick. Carolina will be “kicking’ themselves for not going for it on 4th and 1. There is no guarantee they would have reached the endzone, but they put their team at risk by kicking the field goal so early. Their decision at best was a tie, but likely a loss, instead of the possibility of a win while keeping the tie in play by gaining one yard.

What’s next?

The Bengals travel to Indiana to take on a tough Indianapolis team, winners of four straight. (Oct. 19, 1:00pm, CBS).

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