With Week 5 having come and gone for the AFC North, the division is entering the second quarter of the 2018 NFL regular season. October football is often heralded as a major factor in which teams begin to make the push for potential post-season play, so the fact that the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers all won while the Baltimore Ravens lost begins to reshape how the division looks moving forward.
Cleveland Browns 12 - Baltimore Ravens 9 (OT)
Browns knock off Ravens with overtime field goal
After a victory over the Steelers in Week 4, the Ravens were ready to bank on past matchups with the Browns as another notch in their belt on Sunday. Unfortunately, despite their record against rookie quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield came to play and helped Cleveland force the game into overtime. During the overtime period, Mayfield put together a late drive to set up the game-winning field goal by rookie placekicker Greg Joseph. In his second NFL start, Mayfield shook off an early interception to complete 25-of-43 passing attempts for 342 yards and a touchdown for an 81.7 quarterback rating.
“The AFC North is a great division. We are bringing the competition back within the division, and that is great to see...We are taking it one week at a time, so moving forward, that was a big win for us.” - Baker Mayfield
Baltimore had a total breakdown on offense on Sunday. They were unable to score a single touchdown, their last coming in the first quarter of their game against Pittsburgh (Week 4). After beginning the season with an amazing record of 13-of-13 trips in the redzone, Baltimore has scored just one time in their last seven trips. The Ravens can't blame field position because the Browns gave them opportunities to take quick trips down the field, but the Cleveland defense was aided by mistakes the Ravens inflicted upon themselves.
After watching Michael Crabtree and Joe Flacco struggle to hook up, mainly due to drops by the usually reliable receiver, they hit a wall in the overtime period when receiver Chris Moore was called for a penalty for blocking in the back. Alex Collins had pounded out 17 yards on a nice run play that would have set up Justin Tucker to kick the game-winner had the penalty not been called. Instead, they were forced into a first-and-16 and Cleveland's defense forced the punt to turn the field over to their offense.
Flacco completed 29-of-56 passes for 298 yards to one interception. He was sacked twice. While Javorius Allen and Collins did well rushing the ball, Baltimore got caught trying to make the game a shootout and the Browns secondary, with Denzel Ward, were having none of it. They shadowed John Brown and eliminated his deep threat ability. "I knew that was going to be a part of the plan," Brown said after the game. "They did a good job with it."
Cincinnati Bengals 27 - Miami Dolphins 17
Young defense making a difference for Bengals
The Bengals have been known for leaving games on the field, especially close ones, for a while now, but a young defense who is finding a way to create turnovers week-to-week is the new norm in Cincinnati. In the win over the Dolphins on Sunday, it was defensive end Michael Johnson (the oldest player on defense) who grabbed a deflected pass and returned it 22 yards for his first NFL touchdown (tying the game) and defensive end Sam Hubbard (a rookie) who sealed the victory by returning a Ryan Tannehill fumble for 19 yards and his first NFL touchdown.
While Tannehill completed just 8-of-16 passes for 71 yards to two interceptions, the fumble and two sacks in the fourth quarter, the Bengals racked up 24 points to put the nail in the coffin. "That's just the way this league is," said receiver Alex Erickson after the game. "It comes down to so many fina scores and one-possession games. These last couple weeks have been a testament to that, in the way we've been able to wear teams out and finish games."
The Bengals lead the league in returns for touchdowns (3) - two on fumbles. Between 2014-16, the Bengals had just two. The club record in a single season is seven - four off interceptions (2013). The defense has been bailing out the offense, who has struggled at times to get things going in the right direction, and have given the team their best start since the 2015 season.
Pittsburgh Steelers 41 - Atlanta Falcons 17
What the Steelers are saying after Sunday's showdown
The Steelers finally look like a contender after handing the Falcons a loss on Sunday. That isn't to say that things in Pittsburgh are perfect - far from it. The concerns about Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown not being able to connect seem to be wired right once again. The run game got some steam with James Conner pounding the rock and contributing in some pass plays. The offensive line is firing on all cylinders. The defense finally got some decent pressure up front and the backfield was stingy.
“Hopefully, this performance can catapult us in the right direction and start climbing the leaderboard of defenses, continue to win and make plays for this team.” - L.J. Fort
Pittsburgh's defense entered the game ranked No. 21 against the run, No. 29 against the pass and No, 30 in total defense. They faced an Atlanta offense that was ranked No. 7 (total offense), No. 6 in the pass and had put together 73 points and 902 total net yards in their previous two games.
“I know a lot of people were probably expecting a shootout," cornerback Mike Hilton said. "For us to come out and dominate the way we did defensively, that’s a big step for us.”
“We needed to put a stake in the ground and just work,” safety Sean Davis said. “We’ve been down. We’ve been down bad. We knew we had to put a stake in the ground and fight uphill.”
“I don’t think he liked the performance he had the week before,” said offensive guard Marcus Gilbert about Conner at running back. “We didn’t either. I think he came out with a chip on his shoulder and just ran his behind off. Kudos to him. I am proud of him. He keeps getting better and better each week.
“The level of detail was the best it’s been this year,” said defensive end Cam Heyward. “We just have to keep doing that. Even with Vince (Williams) down, we had so many guys communicating, so many guys on the same page. There are still things we can improve on. We are still a work in progress. We can be more successful against the run. There are things we can improve on. We have to stay humble and hungry for this.”
“I don’t know what world he goes to after he makes a play,” said Stephon Tuitt about T.J. Watt. “I always wait until he comes back to our world. He does a great job and a lot of excitement when he makes plays.”
Division Standings Through Week 5