AFC North Breakdown – Week 6


(Jarrett Carter writes for The Ebony Bird, which is FSB’s Ravens blog. Representing the rest of the AFC North are Dawg Pound Daily, Nice Pick Cowher and Stripe Hype.)

Week 6 of the 2008 NFL regular season was all about byes for the AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens officially waved goodbye to hopes of division dominance, the Cincinnati Bengals bid farewell to any kind of relevance short of Chad changing his last name to a German-engineered sedan, and the Pittsburgh Steelers said goodbye to worries for the week.

Time to cash last week’s reality check around the AFC North.

Baltimore Ravens (2-3):

Looking Back: At least you can call the Baltimore Ravens consistent. You hoped Joe Flacco wouldn’t be worse than the two-interception outing against the Tennessee Titans, and he topped it with three picks. You hoped the Ravens running game would return to form against a defense with bigger holes than the roof of its new stadium, and the run completely abandoned them.

And you thought the defense would clamp down on an offense that had not been itself through the first four games of the season. They got aired out, stretched out, and outed as a defense in flux.

Looking Forward: The Ravens have a date with the Wildcat offense next week in Miami, which is funny, because it’s likely to be a dogfight given that the Ravens were the only team the Miami Dolphins beat last year.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-6):

Looking Back: It was close in the first half against the New York Jets, and that’s about as close as it got. Look, you can’t completely trash the Bengals because they are dealing with injuries, a wack defensive unit, and what could be a tough division.

Looking Forward: Marvin Lewis is still the head coach, which is not a very good sign for this team. They need a new look at the helm if the hope to salvage any of this season, or to build for the future. And whether Lewis is the head coach next Sunday, the next stop on the future tour is at home against the 4-1 Steelers.

Cleveland Browns (2-3):

Looking Back: Who would’ve thunk it? An aggressive secondary? Solid play at quarterback? A rookie linebacker leading the team in sacks not named Kamerion Wembley? Is this the Cleveland Browns or the New England Patriots? The Browns looked like one of the AFC’s best teams against the New York Giants, and made Eli Manning smirk aplenty.

Looking Forward: The Browns don’t want to hear that “Hip Hip Hooray” junk when they face off against Washington on Sunday. Serving up the Giants may give the Browns a new lease on the season, and Brady Quinn a lot more

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1):

Looking Back: The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t play anybody last week, which was good because it gave the rest of the division something to aspire for. Not losing.

Looking Forward: The Steel Curtain visits Cincinnati next week, in what should be a relatively easy win against the Bengals. But nothing comes easy in divisional games, so stay tuned. And when you tune in, remember that the AFC North, one day, will be more than a practice field for the Steelers’ playoff ambitions.