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, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers fared against their opponents each week during the NFL regular season.
With the Steelers and Browns on a 'bye', there were only two games played by AFC North rivals in Week 7. While the Ravens became the only team in the division to be able to handle the Seattle Seahawks, the Bengals fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars and may have just closed the book on their season.
Ravens on fire after beating the Seahawks
On Sunday, after handing the Seahawks a double-digit loss, 30-16, there is chatter around the league that Baltimore is a legitimate AFC contender. The win showcased one of the most complete games played by both the Ravens' offense and defense. They needed to be a cohesive group this week as they head into their bye week (NFL Week 8) before going toe-to-toe with the New England Patriots.
In a battle of similarly-styled quarterbacks in MVP consideration Russell Wilson and young Lamar Jackson, it was the Ravens quarterback who looked like he was more unsteady - at least initially. He had a slip or two on the wet CenturyLink Field turf and looked like he might be overthinking things before he got his legs under him and kept the offense moving along. Jackson's biggest play may have been the go-ahead touchdown run on a fourth-and-two from the Seattle eight-yard line in the third quarter.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 20, 2019
Jackson finished nine-for-20 for 143 yards and 14 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown - his second straight game with 100-plus rushing yards.
Wanting help in their defensive backfield, the Ravens recently acquired Marcus Peters - and he could very well be considered the second-most important playmaker in securing the win over the Seahawks. After grabbing the first errant pass Wilson has thrown this season, Peters not only picked the pass but took it for a long touchdown run.
The play helped get Baltimore off of its heels and take charge of the game. The Ravens defense grabbed another touchdown when Marlon Humphrey scooped up a loose ball and somehow managed to stay inbounds for the score.
"According to some advanced metrics, the Ravens have the best chance of knocking the New England Patriots off this year." - Jonas Shaffer
This was a Ravens game that featured first-half adversity and total dominance in the second half. Sunday was the first time Baltimore has won in Seattle and will enter the bye week with a 5-2 record and 2.5-game lead in the AFC North.
Bengals can't cage Jaguars, fall to 0-7
In seven games, Cincinnati has experienced seven losses. Their latest was a 17-27 loss to Jacksonville. The loss meant that the Bengals have not won a single game since December 16, 2018. Offensively, there was very little that Andy Dalton could get going. Defensively, there weren't enough playmakers to keep the Jaguars out of the end zone.
"We knew this game was going to come down to field position (and be a) turnover battle... we just didn't stand up and make enough plays." - Bengals head coach Zac Taylor
Dalton threw a season-high three picks (all in the fourth quarter) mainly due to trying to force the ball to Tyler Boyd. Boyd, who the Jaguars focuses on eliminating from the game plan, was kept blanketed and gave up a costly fumble on his first catch which came in the opening of the second half. When Dalton did find a receiver open, it was Alex Erickson. Erikson put up career-high receiving yards and was the only Bengals pass-catcher until the final two minutes of the first half when Joe Mixon caught a two-yard toss for a touchdown from Dalton. Erickson grabbed six receptions for 100 yards in the first half and then added two more for a total of 137 yards receiving on the day.
Auden Tate did make a nice catch in the game but his production numbers just aren't enough to offset the mistakes that the offense made.
With poor play from the offensive line, Cincinnati's offense has become very one-dimensional. Mixon would love to do more with the ball but there are no lanes for him to enter and break out of. With opposing defenses stacking the box, Mixon was often hit as soon as he took the ball from Dalton. That has made the running back who led all AFC rushers in yards last season look like he is playing poorly when the truth is, he has very few options.
Credit should be given to Geno Atkins for his efforts in attempting to keep his team in the game. The seven-time Pro Bowler logged two sacks in the first quarter (the first was a near safety). He hasn't been as active this season but he made his presence known throughout the game.
“That’s our Achilles right now. We have to stop the run and I don’t know what else we can differently.” - Bengals safety Shawn Williams.
Unfortunately, as well as Atkins played, the Bengals still can not stop the run. They gave up 216 yards on the ground on Sunday to the Jaguars; Leonard Fournette had 131 yards on his own.
The Bengals will play in London in Week 8 against the Los Angeles Rams at Wembley Stadium.