Zac Jackson and Pat McManamon discuss the state of the AFC North as we enter Week Two.
By FS OHIO STAFFFS Ohio
1. That we keep using the word "historical" with the, um, achievements of the Browns offense can not be a good thing. How do the Browns go about getting it fixed?
McManamon: Hope. Thatís basically what the Browns are relying on at this point. Hope that Trent Richardson gets better quickly and revives the moribund running game. Hope that Brandon Weedenís opener was just an aberration and not the real thing. Hope that Greg Little starts to actually catch the ball, that Josh Gordon suddenly grows up and that the offensive line can run block. Hope is not the greatest way to build a team, but the Browns at this point are really hoping they were right in their evaluations. The alternative is so much worse.
Jackson: One game in and it's the same movie, different year. It's just one game, but it was as bad or worse than previous performances. Fixing it would seem to start with getting Trent Richardson on two healthy legs, making sure
Brandon Weeden is confident, making sure that Weeden's good passes get caught and, yeah, it goes on. Hey, the Browns barely showed up in the 2007 opener and the next week became the old Houston Oilers. Maybe? Anyone?
2. The Bengals got steamrolled in Baltimore last Monday. Real cause for concern, or was that almost unavoidable?
McManamon: Cincinnati faced the perfect storm. Baltimore was opening at home on a Monday night and playing with the emotion of losing Art Modell. Like it or not, it was real to them. The Ravens came within a dropped pass of going to the Super Bowl, and they gave Joe Flacco more responsibility. Cincinnati faced a buzzsaw. How they play Sunday will tell a lot more about the Bengals than Monday nightís loss.
Jackson: That was almost unavoidable. Maybe not the 44-13 part of it, but the keeping pace with the Ravens for four quarters part of it. There is real cause for concern because the injuries are mounting and there aren't a ton of good vibes around the Bengals right now, but there's a lot of season left. The Bengals need to adjust to the way defenses are adjusting to A.J. Green, and they need their secondary to hold up. That's a good place to start. Look for the cornerbacks to be sitting on Weeden's short passes early Sunday.
3. If we want to crown Joe Flacco and the Ravens, should we go ahead and crown them?
McManamon: The Ravens indeed are who we thought they were. A team with an opportunistic defense led by all-everything safety Ed Reed, with a sound running game behind Ray Rice and with an underrated quarterback in Flacco. They are the clear-cut AFC North favorite, though they still must contend with the Steelers.
Jackson: For now, yes, crown them. They were maybe the league's most impressive team in Week One, and anyone who's been watching the Ravens for a while can do a little look-ahead math involving that up-tempo offense and what's always a good defense. The Ravens still have flaws like everyone else -- and, like everyone else, still have 15 games -- but have a leg up on the AFC North field, and not just in the standings.
4. Week One in the NFL is a breeding ground for overreaction. Of the three AFC North teams at 0-1, which ones can get it turned around well before the clocks change and which ones are in for a long year?
McManamon: Never count out the Steelers. Itís silly to do so. Pittsburgh has issues, especially on the offensive line. But they still have Ben Roethlisberger and they werenít that far from winning in Denver. The Steelers have to fight through a lot, but they always seem to find a way to do so successfully.
Jackson: The Steelers will be fine -- unless that offensive line gets Ben Roethlisberger maimed, in which case the Steelers might still be fine because they're the Steelers. The Bengals actually played 12-18 minutes of solid, promising football in Baltimore last Monday night but just got overwhelmed in the rest. Until the Browns see Weeden lead some touchdown drives, that's where the panic is in the AFC North.
5. Somebody's going to win Sunday in Cincinnati. Who's it going to be?
McManamon: The Browns are teetering on the verge of calamity. Two losses in a row to start the season could lead to grumbling and finger-pointing, and with a coaching staff dealing with uncertainty thatís a volatile combination. Cleveland needs this game. But so does Cincinnati. And the Bengals have two things the Browns lack: An offensive playmaker in A.J. Green, and a swarming aggressive defense led by defensive tackle Geno Atkins, one of the leagueís underrated players. Calamity is just around the corner as Cincinnati wins.
Jackson: Both teams really need the game considering both what happened last week and what's ahead. Considering the Bengals are at home -- and Joe Haden is, too -- I lean that way in a game that figures to be low-scoring and tight, at least for a while. The pick here is 24-13, Bengals.