Steel City Underground's AFC North Report wraps up the result of each game played by rivals in the division and how the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Cleveland Browns fared against their opponents each week during the NFL regular season.
Ravens stand alone at top of the division, for now
With the Pittsburgh Steelers losing a close game in overtime on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, the purple and black hold the AFC North lead, for now, with a record of 3-2. Two of their wins came against divisional rivals. At this point, however, after five weeks of play, the division title is still up for grabs.
The Cleveland Browns lost in embarrassing fashion to the San Francisco 49ers (4-0) on Monday night, pushing their record to 2-3. Just one week after earning a win over the Ravens, the 'Niners put a beat-down on Baker Mayfield and company to the tune of 31-3. Mayfield threw two interceptions and leads the league with eight entering Week 6. Due to a porous offensive line, Mayfield was also sacked four times.
While the Steelers are reeling after losing not only Ben Roethlisberger for the season, but backup quarterback Mason Rudolph due to a hit to the facemask that forced the young signal-caller out of the game with the Ravens on Sunday, their defense has been stout and is ranked third in the league through five weeks. They'll call on undrafted rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges to lead their offense in Week 6.
At 0-5, the Cincinnati Bengals haven't been able to score more than 23 points in any of their games this season and field a defense that is ranked 31st in the league. Their loss to a less-than-stellar Arizona Cardinals team by a mere three points (23-26) is like salt in a fresh wound.
What's next for this division?
This is the time of year in the NFL when 'bye' weeks start to come into play and injuries seem to do so as well. None of the AFC North teams has been immune to the injury bug and with such uncertainty as to who could set themselves apart, the next couple of weeks could be make-or-break situations.
The Steelers travel to face the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football. After Rudolph was injured, Hodges entered the game and completed seven-of-nine passes for 68 yards. He didn't look rattled and had a few things gone differently, he may have exited the game as the winning signal-caller after the Steelers defense sacked Lamar Jackson five times.
"(Hodges) gave us a chance. You are talking about a guy that didn't make our opening 53... he has done some good things at every step along the way." - Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin
The Browns have a short week to get ready to host another very strong West Coast team in the Seattle Seahawks (4-1) on Sunday. No one knows whether they'll put together a game like the one in which they handed the Ravens a loss or a game against the 'Niners that made them look ill-prepared and shell shocked.
"In Baltimore, we did our job, we were physical. (Against San Francisco), we didn't do our job." - Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield
Rookie head coach Zac Taylor has plenty to worry about with this season's Bengals team, even if he seems calm and collected in his press conferences. The Bengals have been without veteran wide receiver A.J. Green and will be again when they travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens on Sunday. Without Green, Cincinnati expected John Ross to step up and were forced to place him on injured reserve. Alex Erickson was placed in concussion protocol after Sunday's game with the Cardinals. Without many weapons on offense and a faltering defense, it is a tough match the Bengals are facing in Week 6.
"We have another tough test this week against Baltimore in a divisional game... our guys still have the right mindset that we're going to go out and attack this week and get together a good game plan and execute it the best we can and get out with a win." - Bengals head coach Zac Taylor
The Ravens are confident in their offense. Following the close game with the Steelers, however, Baltimore spent time shoring up their defense before that game and have moved some more pieces around on their gridiron chessboard.
"We have to find a way to get more sacks. We have to find a way to get more pressure... more turnovers. All of those things are things that we really want to work hard at doing better at." - Ravens head coach John Harbaugh
Tied for 23rd in the league in sacks through five games, head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta may not be finished looking at making personnel moves, especially after Tony Jefferson tore an ACL in Pittsburgh (which ended his season). They have already signed defensive tackle Jihad Ward to their 53-man roster (formerly with the Indianapolis Colts). Whether they'll add more pieces before they play the Bengals remains to be seen.