AFC North: Quarter Poll Evaluation

Chris Schisler
Presented By Yogolaada

Week 4 is in the books and one quarter of the season is completed. We will start our quarter poll evaluations with the AFC North.

Overview:
The pundits spent the offseason debating whether Cincinnati or Baltimore would be crowned AFC North Champion. While no team is out of it this early, it looks like a 2 team race. The Bengals opened the season with a gritty win in Baltimore. For the moment this gives them the advantage. The Ravens have really played well since then.

Pittsburgh is (to steal a line from Denny Green) who we thought they were. They are an average team with Ben Roethlisberger as their only extraordinary component. The Browns are much improved, but at 1-2 sit in last place.

Team Evaluations
1.) Bengals: 3-0
The Bengals are playing good football all the way around. The key for the Bengals is that Dalton plays mistake free football. Dalton has done just that. The Bengals have plenty of talent everything depends on Andy Dalton. So far, Dalton is delivering.

Defensively the Bengals are truly impressive. The thing that I am so wowed by is their ability to get pass rush without sending a bunch of blitzers. They have guys who can win one on one battles with offensive lineman all over the front 7. Spreading them out only allows them to show their freakish athleticism in their linebacking group. The secondary is good but when the front 7 is so dominant it can look great.

2.) Baltimore Ravens: 3-1
The beautiful thing about the Ravens is that they are getting better every week. After stumbling in the opener the Ravens have won three straight. The purple and black dominated the Steelers 26-6. It was an impressive win during a short week and the Ray Rice video aftermath. The Ravens then traveled to Cleveland and squeaked out a win against a reborn Browns team. The Ravens last game was a 38-10 pulverization of the Panthers.

There is a sense that the Ravens are just beginning to take flight. The creative offense is behooving Joe Flacco, who looks like a new quarterback. The Ravens running game has been sensational. Steve Smith Sr., Owen Daniels and Kyle Juszczyk have provided Joe Flacco a much better set of weapons. The Ravens have a top 10 offense after week 4, in a brand new offense.

The defense is a work in progress. It has at moments looked great, awful and everything in between. The positive though is that its not allowing a lot of points. With the Ravens offense putting up the points, and a defense that gives up touchdowns seldom, it’s all good in Baltimore.

3.) Pittsburgh Steelers 2-2
The Steelers blew a huge lead against Cleveland, to win their opener in dramatic fashion. The Steelers were then crushed by Baltimore 26-6. They bounced back by steamrolling over Carolina. The lowly Bucs beat them, after that. The 2-2 start is indicative of the average team that they are.

The Steelers are not bad but they are not great. Ben Roethlisberger is still a dangerous quarterback. Antonio Brown continues to be a star; Le’Veon Bell has become one. The offensive line is still a concern (at least in pass protection) and Ben needs mire weapons.

The defense is far from the dominant group they used to be. The Steelers are starting a youth movement on defense, slowly replacing older players. The secondary is laughable and the front 7 can be run on.

4.) Cleveland Browns: 1-2
Close but no cigar is a phrase Cleveland can relate to. The Browns nearly bested the Steelers. They then beat the New Orleans Saints in the dog-pound. The Ravens slipped past them on a last second field goal and then it was their bye week. The Browns could easily be 3-0 but are in typical Browns fashion, 1-2.

After all the Johnny Football hype, it has been Brian Hoyer, who has impressed under center. Hoyer has exceeded expectations and the Browns have played tough in every game. The defense is strong. If the Browns learn to finish, they will be a tough out in the AFC North.

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