The AFC North is home to one of the last remaining undefeated teams in the the NFL. The Cincinnati Bengals are 3-0 and are at the top of many power rankings. The Baltimore Ravens are coming off of a convincing win over the Carolina Panthers while the Cleveland Browns are coming off of a bye week. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the last moments of the game. Let’s take a look at the AFC North: week 5 top stories.
Steve Smith Sr. and the Ravens hosted the Carolina Panthers in what was billed as a revenge game. Smith didn’t show the emotional outburst that many may have expected. He did deliver on his promise to show his former team that he can still play. More importantly, his calm demeanor dispelled some other rumors about his potentially being a negative influence in the locker room.
Reports surfaced that Panthers brass felt that Smith would be disruptive and interfere with the continued development of Cam Newton. Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman was the primary source of the rumors. Gettleman met with Steve Smith Sr. and reportedly told him that he can’t run the same as he used to and that he would be jealous of Newton.
It looks like Smith got the last laugh. He scored two touchdowns against his former team and was caught on film letting them know about it. Smith told the Panthers sideline to “go back to Carolina and mow his lawn.” He told the media that he felt stabbed in the back by head coach Ron Rivera because the coach never came to him and told him what was about to happen. Smith simply let his play do the talking for him on Sunday. Next up for Smith and the Ravens is a road visit to Indianapolis to face the Colts.
The Bengals are playing as well as any team in the NFL. They gave a 3-0 record and go into week five poised to make a statement on the road against the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football. This is a pivotal match up for the Bengals. It gives them a chance to stick it to one of the teams that were favored to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year.
The offense is playing well as shown by their ranking 7th in the NFL on total offense with 384 yards per game. Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill have become a pretty formidable running back tandem. Bernard is doing more damage on outside runs and as a receiver because of his speed. The rookie Hill is a big back that the Bengals like to run between the tackles. The rushing attack is 15th in the NFL averaging 121.7 yards rushing per game.
Andy Dalton has done a solid job despite not having wide receiver Marvin Jones. A.J. Green continues to shown that he is one of the best receivers in the game despite facing plenty of double coverages. The Bengals have the 11th ranked passing offense which is posting 262.3 yards per game. They’ll look to flex their offensive muscles against a Patriots defense that lacks playmaker but is 4th in the NFL giving up only 315.2 yards of total offense per game.
Many thought that the Browns would be gearing up to start Johnny Manziel after the bye week. There was a feeling that the Browns would go 0-3 and get Johnny Football going for the start of what is supposedly an easy stretch of the schedule. Apparently Brian Hoyer didn’t get that memo.
The Browns are 1-2 after losing a close game to the Ravens at home before the bye week. They very well could have won that game as Hoyer had the team ahead before the defense gave up a late field goal. The Browns other loss came after they mounted a fierce second half comeback against the Steelers. They lost the game, but the team fought back to make it a close game. Their only win came against the New Orleans Saints at home.
Hoyer has played well in all of the games. He has completed 64.2% of his passes for 716 yards and three touchdowns. The key stat is he has not thrown an interception through three games. Hoyer also has the game winning drive against the Saints to hang his hat on. He has shown a great deal of character as he has handled the incorporation of Manziel into the offense. Obviously he didn’t like it, but Hoyer has moxy. It spurred him to play even better.
At the end of the day, the Browns are built to win with a strong defense, a legitimate running game and efficient quarterback play. That’s exactly what Hoyer provides. He may not put up 300 yard passing games but he’s an effective quarterback that won’t lose the game.
It seems like the tide is turning in Pittsburgh. Many of the fans are more concerned about their beloved Pirates. The city remains Steelers country though. Head Coach Mike Tomlin expressed his frustration which the team’s lack of discipline during his post game presser. Tomlin said that the Steelers are fortunate to have a .500 record at this point. “Obviously, those will never been down to zero, but we have to work to minimize those,” Tomlin said. “We have to be one of the most highly penalized teams in football right now. So, when you look at it from that perspective, you’re minus in the turnover ratio, you’re one of the most highly penalized teams in football. You probably should be thankful to be 2-2.”
In Tomlin’s eyes, the team has lacked discipline. He has taken direct responsibility for this. As a result, the Steelers have brought in officials during practice in an attempt to minimize penalties. The main area that needs to be addressed is pre and post snap penalties. Tomlin’s comments were primarily directed towards wide receiver Antonio Brown. “Scoring has got to become routine for him,” Tomlin said. “He’s got to hand the ball to the official and come to the sideline and get ready to do it again. That’s simply what comes with being him.”
The Steelers will go on the road to face the Jacksonville Jaguars. Going against one of the worst teams in the NFL should be a good opportunity for the team to get back on the right track. Then again, the Steelers just lost at home to the lowly Buccaneers. Look for the Steelers to have a more disciplined approach this week which means less celebrating after touchdowns.
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