AFC North: Previewing the division's Week Five match-ups | Steel City Underground

Steel City Underground

SCU AFC North Preview

The AFC North was a division that was expected to produce a team that would enter the AFC Championship and press for a Super Bowl bid in 2018. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the favorites to do just that but after four weeks of play, it has been the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens that have jumped to an early lead in the league and surprised many, mainly due to offensive production versus their typical defensive strength; they're ranked fourth and fifth in points-per-game respectively. Granted, the NFL has been a bit of a shooting gallery this season with offenses across the league putting up some phenomenally high numbers - 30 points per game is no longer an anomaly. While the Bengals and Ravens look like they could jump to 4-1, the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers continue to be hot and cold. Here is a look at the upcoming games across the division and their opponents for Week 5.

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A battle of 3-1 between the Bengals and Dolphins

Both of these teams have gotten off to a hotter start than possibly even they thought they might. The Dolphins are coming off of a loss to the New England Patriots while the Bengals barely escaped a loss - or maybe you'd like to say they sneaked in a one-point win - against the Atlanta Falcons. These two teams are a close match due to some potentially critical injuries and the adjustments that come to personnel packages as a result. This AFC matchup has historically favored Miami; the Dolphins hold a 16-6 record in the series (since 1968), but in their last meeting (2016), Cincinnati was able to take a win.

The prevalent thought among NFL gurus is that the Dolphins have a decent offense against a decent Bengals defense; the Bengals grabbing the edge by way of their offense through four weeks of play over the Dolphins "D". Andy Dalton has been playing well, but Ryan Tannehill - another quarterback that doesn't get much media attention - has been quietly leading his team through challenges also. Yes, the Bengals are getting Joe Mixon back this week, but how much production will they get from him after his knee was scoped? They've lost Tyler Eifert for the season and John Ross won't be available. But Miami's defense, while quick, will have A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd to cover without Bobby McCain (knee), calling on Torry McTyer or Cordrea Tankersley to rise to the occasion.

The Dolphins have more injuries to overcome than the Bengals and that could very well determine the outcome between these two 3-1 teams on Sunday.

Game Info
Date: Sunday, Oct. 7
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. (EDT)*
Location: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati)
TV: CBS
Radio: 700WLW • ESPN 1530 • 102.7 WEBN (Ohio Market)

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"Rivalry in the North" equals Ravens, Browns this week

The AFC North teams have all been facing off head-to-head early this season and it has made the whole battle for division supremacy very interesting. This week the Ravens and Browns will go head-to-head with Cleveland playing host. Cleveland was handed a close, but disappointing, loss by the Raiders and look to rebound while the Ravens are riding the momentum of a win over the Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 4.

Mayfield vs. Flacco sounds like a decent fight card, but how it would translate to a football game remains to be seen. Baker Mayfield has proven to be possibly the most exciting rookie quarterback drafted prior to the 2018 season, but the Ravens carry a 15-5 win-loss record against rookie QBs under John Harbaugh. If you look at the rookies the Ravens faced, however, Mayfield is a much tougher opponent (sorry Brian Hoyer and Cody Kessler) who has the mobility and skills to quickly run through his progressions to find Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Antonio Callaway and other targets to move the offene down the field. He will be facing the second-ranked defense in the league entering Week 5, where Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are all looking for opportunities for defensive takeaways.

Flacco has found a way to give opponents a mix of less-than-favorable matchups due to the number of targets the Ravens have finally placed on the roster. John Brown, a deep threat every week, is averaging 22.53 yards per catch and has the ability to take the top off a defense, but the Browns lead the league (through the first four weeks) with 13 defensive takeaways. Willie Snead IV, Michael Crabtree, and Maxx Williams should be factors this week in executing a winning game plan for the Ravens offense. Getting a run game going with Javorius Allen and Alex Collins will be important to stop Myles Garrett from having a huge day. Denzel Ward is an opportunistic cornerback that could turn into a nightmare if Flacco doesn't stay settled and comfortable.

Game Info
Date: Sunday, Oct. 7
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. (EDT)*
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland)
TV: CBS
Radio: ESPN 850 • 92.3 The Fan • 98.5 WNCX (Ohio Market)

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Defenses will be tested in shootout between Steelers, Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons are the seventh-ranked offense in the NFL through four weeks of play and after losing to the Ravens in Week 4, the Steelers defense - ranked 30th - faces a real challenge. The Falcons defense hasn't been much better, earning a rank of 28th and coming into Heinz Field with Deion Jones and Keanu Neal both ruled "out". Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan are expected to be forced into yet another NFL shootout in an attempt to bounce back and get their teams back on track this week.

Both teams boast the best of receivers with Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. That has forced both defenses to put their defensive backfield on notice to prevent the long ball and keep their assignments in front of them. A healthy pass rush from both teams would serve them well in limiting big plays and allowing the game to get out of control.

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Game Info
Date: Sunday, Oct. 7
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. (EDT)*
Location: Heinz Field (Pittsburgh)
TV: FOX
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio • WDVE 102.5 FM • WBGG 970 AM (Pittsburgh Market)

Note: Week 5 games are subject to *flex scheduling from the NFL





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