NFL Week 2 AFC North: Season of Change Seems Like the Same Old Thing, or Is It??

When we were putting our annual previews together this summer we stated this division was about to see some change. This was clearly the last year the Ravens and Steelers would be head and shoulders above the Bengals and Browns. Its been well chronicled about the age of the Steelers defense and we have to see which was more indicative of where they will play as a unit. Was it the 170 yards they gave up on the ground to the Baltimore Ravens in week 1 or the 31 yards last week to the Seahawks?? Speaking of the Ravens… What was that egg you guys laid in Adelphia Coliseum last week in losing to the Titans?? Are you serious?? Finally get that big early season win over the Steelers to put them in the rear view and then stub your toe the next week and catch you in the standings. You’re running out of time to get Ray Lewis another ring before he retires.

As for Marvin Lewis and his Cincinnati Bengals, who knew that he’d be only a few plays away from a 2-0 start after losing Chad Ochocinco and recovering from the Carson Palmer odyssey. With rookie QB Andy Dalton playing well these first couple of weeks and Bruce Gradkowski as insurance if there is a drop, time to unload Palmer. An in-season trade to help fortify the defense and get your team to totally rally around the quarterbacks that want to be there. Would go a long way in solidifying your locker room. Keep feeding the football to Cedric Benson. His 180 yards rushing in these first two games has been the difference between going 1-1 as opposed to 0-2 and resting your defense. Face it you stole one from the Browns who should have had that game. You get a win however you can though…

AFC NORTH W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
Cincinnati 1 1 0 .500 0-0-0 1-1-0 1-0-0 1-1-0 49 41 +8 Lost 1
Baltimore 1 1 0 .500 1-0-0 0-1-0 1-0-0 1-1-0 48 33 +15 Lost 1
Cleveland 1 1 0 .500 0-1-0 1-0-0 0-1-0 1-1-0 44 46 -2 Won 1
Pittsburgh 1 1 0 .500 1-0-0 0-1-0 0-1-0 0-1-0 31 35 -4 Won 1

As for the Browns, hopefully it’s the ties that bind that will bring the coaching carousel to a close. Coach Pat Shurmur is the nephew of the late Fritz Shurmur, who was the defensive co-ordinator for present Brown GM Mike Holmgren when he coached in Green Bay. The Shurmur/ Holmgren relationship was forged during the late 80s when Mike was the offensive co-ordinator for the World Champion 49ers and the hardest defense in their division year in and year out was the Los Angeles Rams defense under Fritz. That’s the coaching pedigree. Right now he doesn’t have to draw up any exotic blitzes, just has to have his defense not give up over 100 yards a game rushing on defense. They already have the perfect antidote in having Peyton Hillis pound at rival defenses to keep opposing teams off the field. He needs a little more help from Colt McCoy, who is completing only 56.3% of his passes. He has to show some growth in this season or Hillis could break down late in the season from overuse. They need him down the stretch where 3 of their last 4 are on the road. They absolutely need a receiver to emerge, to have Hillis as the leading receiver shows the ball is getting dumped off too much. Hillis isn’t Marshall Faulk running intricate routes. Come on Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs…

When it comes to the Steelers,. this team loves to run, but their defense is going to similar to every NFL team and see a defensive slip this year. That lack of conditioning and age will have the Steelers giving up points this year and placing the game in Roethlisberger’s hands. Face it he keeps plays alive and makes things happen and with his size never gets knocked out of the game. With Emanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown able to get deep, it should open up the intermediate routes for Hines Ward, Heath Miller, and Mike Wallace. So here we would suspect you’d ask why aren’t we saying Pittsburgh should run. We don’t because we know they’ll run yet the defense may put them in a few jams where they will have to come from behind or score late. Something they have not had to put up with in the Roethlisberger. The Steelers will be a passing and bubble screen team much like they were in 2003, its a transitional year. They get a break and take on the Manningless Colts this week so the stats won’t look bad on this defense.

Well after last year’s playoff loss to the Steelers we called Joe Flacco a beta quarterback and not an alpha. We took a lot of flack for that yet it’s reared it’s head in just two weeks of this season. Lets face it, it was the 170 yards rushing on the Steelers defense as the  reason they won that game. Where Flacco has to become a more polished quarterback and more of a field general was in a game like last week. They’re losing to a team they should really be ahead of. It’s those games that you see the best quarterbacks put their team on their back if they have to and pass them to victory. Dating back to last year’s Monday Night loss in Atlanta to Matt Ryan and the Falcons we have had our eye on this. He has the chance to change our CEO’s mind in two weeks when he takes on the New York Jets then two weeks later the Houston Texans as well. He will at least be home for these games and has to come through. He’s the AFC’s version of Tony Romo, just without the big mistakes. It’s time for some absolute field generalship from him. He needs to channel his inner Unitas.

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