AFC North Week 1 Review: Baltimore Ravens Impress
AFC North Wrap Up: Ravens Impress, so do division rivals
If it wasn’t for the little brother of the division, the AFC North would be perfect. During week one, three teams in the AFC North won, and the little brother is the Cleveland Browns. The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals both won closely contested games while the Pittsburgh Steelers dominated the Washington Redskins on Monday night.
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Cleveland fans just watch replays of the Cavaliers winning the NBA Finals. Unfortunately for them, it looks like a long season for the Browns. Any hope of Robert Griffin III turning around his career in the ugliest uniforms in the NFL came crashing down after the Browns placed the former rookie of the year on injured reserve.
The three teams with a legitimate shot for the post season looked good against their respected adversaries. While the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals did not control the game the same way as the Steelers, they arguably played better teams than the Redskins. I’m pushing for a new term for interception, “throwing a Cousins.”
After week one, we learned a few things about the most physically daunting division in the NFL. Week 2 features all division matchups, Baltimore at Cleveland and Cincinnati at Pittsburgh. It’s early in the season, but this shape of this division begins to take hold.
Baltimore Ravens 1-0
The Buffalo Bills came to face the Baltimore Ravens to begin their march to the playoffs, but they went home short of victory.
The Ravens defense stepped up in a big way containing the Bills to only seven points. Pro Bowl running Back LeSean McCoy only managed 70 yards from scrimmage. McCoy scored the Bills only touchdown, but he never made a difference in the game.
Mike Wallace scored the go ahead touchdown on a 66-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco. They connected three times for 91 yards. Maybe Flacco’s cannon will revive Wallace’s failing career. The thirty-year-old receiver is playing on his third team in three years. This game marks the most receiving yards in a game since December 2014.
The Ravens now travel to Cleveland in what should be an easy win. Josh McCown becomes the starting quarterback with Griffin’s injury. McCown threw for 669 yards and three touchdowns against the Ravens last year in two starts. His only win as a starter came in Baltimore during an overtime game during week 5.
If the Ravens win, they hold on to the early division lead. There is still a lot of football to play, but it is good to be on top no matter what part of the season we’re in.
Cincinnati Bengals 1-0
The Cincinnati Bengals survived a close game with New York Jets with a Mike Nugent 47-yard field goal, with less than a minute to go, putting them up by one.
Despite sacking Andy Dalton seven times, the Jets failed to stop him. The Red Rifle threw for 366 yards with 180 yards going to AJ Green as Revis Island became a thing of the past. Once a terrifying destination for opposing receivers, now Revis invites them to bring their families so even the little ones can go for hundred against “one of the best in the game.”
The front seven for the Jets tried to make up for the secondary’s short comings. Leonard Williams and Muhhammad Wilkerson combined for four sacks, Steve McLendon got two, and Lorenzo Mauldin got one sack.
On offense, the Ryan Fitzpatrick showed plenty of rust after missing most of training camp while in contract negotiations. Fitzpatrick completed 19 passes on 35 attempts for 189 yards, hardly a stellar performance. Plus, on the final drive of the game, he threw an interception to Josh Shaw essentially ending the game.
Experts pick the Bengals all over the map. Many point to the loss of former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones as the catalyst for their decline. After this game, Coach Lewis seems to have a handle on the team. Until December anyway.
Pittsburgh Steelers 1-0
It takes more than an over-hyped NFC East team to bring down the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Redskins looked thoroughly dominated on both sides of the ball as the Steelers controlled the game from the opening kickoff. Washington managed to throw for 329 yards, but that was mostly in garbage time. The Steelers didn’t record a sack, but they only allowed 55 yards rushing on the night.
Kick Cousins continues to provide the Redskins with reason not to sign him to a new contract. Two more of those reasons went to Steelers linebackers James Harrison and Ryan Shazier. Cousins threw the ball 43 times last night as Washington played from behind all night.
Last season, a weak division propelled the Redskins to a division championship, but this team stinks like the rest of the NFC East. This year, Dallas drafted a real backup quarterback, and the Giants might actually play some defense this year. Of course, the Eagles are the NFC East version of the Browns.
In a rematch of the craziest playoff game of all time, Cincinnati comes to Pittsburgh. This game’s appeal should have ear marked it for a national game, but instead, it’s a 1PM start. This will be a fun game to watch as the implication in the division standings rear its head early.
Cleveland Browns 0-1
Every time I think of this team, I see Charlie Brown running to kick the football, but Lucy pulls it away from him. This game against the Philadelphia Eagles was the best chance for a win all season for the Browns. In years past, they half pretended to put a football team on the field, but this year, the new front office team blew up the roster.
This game wasn’t even close, so I will just say the Eagles won. Carson Wentz played okay, and Robert Griffin III got hurt (surprise, surprise). Head Coach Hue Jackson now goes to Josh McCown at quarterback who started eight games for the Browns last year. His spectacular record of 1-7 speaks for itself.
Cleveland finally brought in people to make the right decisions. The front office stock piled picks this off season while trading down in the draft and moving any player that other teams would take. At least this regime wants to build the team the right way, but the Browns promise to remain the black eye of the division for at least a couple more years. The Ravens get the first chance to embarrass the Browns new starting quarterback this weekend.