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State of the AFC North: Week 4

chrisrich91

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Similar to MoFlo's post game notes, here is the first of a weekly update on the state of the AFC North. Let's discuss the division in which the Browns are currently sitting in the driver's seat.


State of the AFC North

Mason Rudolph gathered the offense into the huddle down 3 - 0 to the Bengals with 11 minutes left in the first half. At the time he was 7 for 8 passing; in a vacuum, a fairly impressive statistic for the young quarterback making his second career start. Upon closer inspection, however, his average depth of target on these passes was a shocking -0.1 yards. As I sat on my couch watching Cincinnati and Pittsburgh's unimpressive battle on Monday Night Football, I thought to myself, “damn, things have changed.”

Moments later Rudolph tossed a short pass to James Conner who bulldozed his way into the end zone for a 21 yard score and a lead they would not relinquish. “Well, I guess some things don’t change.”


Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3)

Four weeks into the 2019 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Ben Roethlisberger exited a week 2 matchup with Seattle with an elbow injury that we later learned would end his season. They now turn to 2018 3rd round pick Mason Rudolph to lead an organization usually regarded as a rock of stability, which now faces far more questions than answers. Brown, Bell, and now Ben. Rest in peace, Killer B’s.

Another growing issue with the Steelers is the offensive line. Historically a staple of successful Steelers teams, the offensive line is beginning to show deficiencies due to age, coaching, or both. Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, and Alejandro Villanueva have taken a noticeable step backward. 3rd year right tackle Matt Feiler is a work-in-progress. On top of this, one of the biggest losses this offseason may not have been a player at all. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak is the best in the business, and his departure to Denver seems to have hurt this unit early in the season.

It is not all doom and gloom for the Steelers. In the midst of various changes, the organization has begun stockpiling young talent in an effort to usher in a new era of Pittsburgh football. Notable young additions besides Rudolph include TJ Watt, Devin Bush, Minkah Fitzpatrick, James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Terrell Edmunds. The Steelers are a rock-solid organization that will find a way to retool in lieu of an ugly rebuild. Although as we know, quarterback is the hardest position to address in the sport. With a future Hall of Famer on his way out, will Mason Rudolph be the answer? It is too early to say, but Roethlisberger’s injury may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as they get a full season to evaluate their young signal caller.

Week 5: BAL @ PIT
Prediction: Ravens win 28 - 21


Cincinnati Bengals (0-4)

At the conclusion of the first quarter of the NFL season, the Bengals find themselves winless, but more importantly, directionless. In a post Marvin Lewis world, Cincinnati is led by a young, highly regarded offensive mind in head coach Zac Taylor. The latest coaching hire in a blossoming Sean McVay coaching tree, Taylor certainly has his hands full with the Bengals’ makeover.

Offensively, the root cause of the Bengals’ shortcomings is the offensive line. An already weak unit lost Cordy Glenn to a concussion and 1st round pick Jonah Williams to a torn labrum during the preseason. Last year’s 1st round pick Billy Price has not lived up to expectations. The result is an offensive line incapable of providing Andy Dalton with sufficient pass protection or Joe Mixon with adequate running lanes. Even with star wide receiver AJ Green on the mend for a bit longer, the Bengals have a solid group of skill positions in addition to Mixon including Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Tyler Eifert, and Giovanni Bernard. Unfortunately this talent is all for naught until the offensive line woes are addressed.

There is a silver lining for Bengals fans. This season looks to be an opportunity for the Bengals to bottom-out and compete with the likes of Miami and Denver for a crack at a 2020 quarterback draft class headlined by guys like Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, and Jake Fromm. A tough 2019 season might be worth it to pair wunderkind head coach Zac Taylor with a young blue-chip quarterback of his choosing for the foreseeable future. If only Cincinnati could fast-forward to the draft.

Week 5: AZ @ CIN
Prediction: Cardinals win 20 - 17


Baltimore Ravens (2-2)

The Baltimore Ravens are fresh off a home walloping by the Cleveland Browns and have some soul-searching to do. After starting the season by piling up eye-popping numbers against Miami and Arizona, Baltimore came back down to earth against fellow AFC contenders in Kansas City and Cleveland. Lamar Jackson is clearly a much improved passer from his rookie season, but he still has plenty of room for growth. The offensive unit in general has been undergoing an evolution since Jackson took the helm in Week 11 of the 2018 season. The Ravens have assembled a talented young supporting cast for Jackson including Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, Hayden Hurst, and Orlando Brown Jr. They also brought in former Heisman winning running back Mark Ingram via free agency from New Orleans. This group has explosive potential utilizing Jackson’s arm and legs under offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s guidance.

The Ravens’ defense has also undergone a variety of changes over the past year. Baltimore lost valuable veteran talent and leadership on defense as Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, Za’Darius Smith, and CJ Mosley left via free agency. What was arguably the NFL’s top defense last season is now searching for a new identity with new faces leading the charge. Free agent acquisition Earl Thomas still seems to be working his way back from injury, but he joins an already talented secondary including corner backs Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith, as well as safety Tony Jefferson. The front seven is a work in progress, but the Ravens have shown an exceptional ability to develop talent within the organization. The team is likely to get stronger as the season progresses, and they project to be the main competitor to the Browns in a fight for the AFC North crown.

Week 5: BAL @ PIT
Prediction: Ravens win 28 - 21
 

Randolphkeys

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Well done!

What stands out to me about the AFC North is that all the teams are at some stage of a rebuild, and therefore young players are thrust into larger expectations. Teams can have huge games where everything clicks, then follow it up with a game where players beat themselves with silly mistakes.

I agree the Steelers and Bengals offenses are at a serious talent deficit, and it would be a minor miracle if either team overcomes that talent deficit to make the playoffs this year. This is a two horse race with the Ravens and Browns, but neither team has a track record of consistency. The one thing the Ravens have over the Browns is a bonafide head coach who has outwitted other head coaches in big games before.
 

Jack Brickman

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Just a note: John Ross was placed on IR yesterday, so he's out at least the next 8 weeks. Auden Tate is expected to be the guy filling Ross' role now.
 

B Mac

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Two team race. Playing the schedule game, it looks like about 8 more wins on the Ravens schedule to me. Gets them to 10 wins total.

Browns have a similar amount of winnable games.

This looks like a dog fight right down to the end.
 

Cassity14

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Two team race. Playing the schedule game, it looks like about 8 more wins on the Ravens schedule to me. Gets them to 10 wins total.

Browns have a similar amount of winnable games.

This looks like a dog fight right down to the end.
Ravens come to Cleveland 12/22. That's going to be an insane atmosphere.
 

Lee

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Similar to MoFlo's post game notes, here is the first of a weekly update on the state of the AFC North. Let's discuss the division in which the Browns are currently sitting in the driver's seat.


State of the AFC North

Mason Rudolph gathered the offense into the huddle down 3 - 0 to the Bengals with 11 minutes left in the first half. At the time he was 7 for 8 passing; in a vacuum, a fairly impressive statistic for the young quarterback making his second career start. Upon closer inspection, however, his average depth of target on these passes was a shocking -0.1 yards. As I sat on my couch watching Cincinnati and Pittsburgh's unimpressive battle on Monday Night Football, I thought to myself, “damn, things have changed.”

Moments later Rudolph tossed a short pass to James Conner who bulldozed his way into the end zone for a 21 yard score and a lead they would not relinquish. “Well, I guess some things don’t change.”


Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3)

Four weeks into the 2019 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Ben Roethlisberger exited a week 2 matchup with Seattle with an elbow injury that we later learned would end his season. They now turn to 2018 3rd round pick Mason Rudolph to lead an organization usually regarded as a rock of stability, which now faces far more questions than answers. Brown, Bell, and now Ben. Rest in peace, Killer B’s.

Another growing issue with the Steelers is the offensive line. Historically a staple of successful Steelers teams, the offensive line is beginning to show deficiencies due to age, coaching, or both. Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, and Alejandro Villanueva have taken a noticeable step backward. 3rd year right tackle Matt Feiler is a work-in-progress. On top of this, one of the biggest losses this offseason may not have been a player at all. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak is the best in the business, and his departure to Denver seems to have hurt this unit early in the season.

It is not all doom and gloom for the Steelers. In the midst of various changes, the organization has begun stockpiling young talent in an effort to usher in a new era of Pittsburgh football. Notable young additions besides Rudolph include TJ Watt, Devin Bush, Minkah Fitzpatrick, James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Terrell Edmunds. The Steelers are a rock-solid organization that will find a way to retool in lieu of an ugly rebuild. Although as we know, quarterback is the hardest position to address in the sport. With a future Hall of Famer on his way out, will Mason Rudolph be the answer? It is too early to say, but Roethlisberger’s injury may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as they get a full season to evaluate their young signal caller.

Week 5: BAL @ PIT
Prediction: Ravens win 28 - 21


Cincinnati Bengals (0-4)

At the conclusion of the first quarter of the NFL season, the Bengals find themselves winless, but more importantly, directionless. In a post Marvin Lewis world, Cincinnati is led by a young, highly regarded offensive mind in head coach Zac Taylor. The latest coaching hire in a blossoming Sean McVay coaching tree, Taylor certainly has his hands full with the Bengals’ makeover.

Offensively, the root cause of the Bengals’ shortcomings is the offensive line. An already weak unit lost Cordy Glenn to a concussion and 1st round pick Jonah Williams to a torn labrum during the preseason. Last year’s 1st round pick Billy Price has not lived up to expectations. The result is an offensive line incapable of providing Andy Dalton with sufficient pass protection or Joe Mixon with adequate running lanes. Even with star wide receiver AJ Green on the mend for a bit longer, the Bengals have a solid group of skill positions in addition to Mixon including Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Tyler Eifert, and Giovanni Bernard. Unfortunately this talent is all for naught until the offensive line woes are addressed.

There is a silver lining for Bengals fans. This season looks to be an opportunity for the Bengals to bottom-out and compete with the likes of Miami and Denver for a crack at a 2020 quarterback draft class headlined by guys like Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, and Jake Fromm. A tough 2019 season might be worth it to pair wunderkind head coach Zac Taylor with a young blue-chip quarterback of his choosing for the foreseeable future. If only Cincinnati could fast-forward to the draft.

Week 5: AZ @ CIN
Prediction: Cardinals win 20 - 17


Baltimore Ravens (2-2)

The Baltimore Ravens are fresh off a home walloping by the Cleveland Browns and have some soul-searching to do. After starting the season by piling up eye-popping numbers against Miami and Arizona, Baltimore came back down to earth against fellow AFC contenders in Kansas City and Cleveland. Lamar Jackson is clearly a much improved passer from his rookie season, but he still has plenty of room for growth. The offensive unit in general has been undergoing an evolution since Jackson took the helm in Week 11 of the 2018 season. The Ravens have assembled a talented young supporting cast for Jackson including Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, Hayden Hurst, and Orlando Brown Jr. They also brought in former Heisman winning running back Mark Ingram via free agency from New Orleans. This group has explosive potential utilizing Jackson’s arm and legs under offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s guidance.

The Ravens’ defense has also undergone a variety of changes over the past year. Baltimore lost valuable veteran talent and leadership on defense as Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, Za’Darius Smith, and CJ Mosley left via free agency. What was arguably the NFL’s top defense last season is now searching for a new identity with new faces leading the charge. Free agent acquisition Earl Thomas still seems to be working his way back from injury, but he joins an already talented secondary including corner backs Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith, as well as safety Tony Jefferson. The front seven is a work in progress, but the Ravens have shown an exceptional ability to develop talent within the organization. The team is likely to get stronger as the season progresses, and they project to be the main competitor to the Browns in a fight for the AFC North crown.

Week 5: BAL @ PIT
Prediction: Ravens win 28 - 21
So this was decently accurate, what do you predict for the Browns game tonight?
 

chrisrich91

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So this was decently accurate, what do you predict for the Browns game tonight?
31-27 San Francisco

I have a feeling this will be the week when we finally feel the pain of being down both starting CBs, even against a pretty unspectacular WR corps. I'm picturing a frustrating game where the Niners dink and dunk us to death, neutralize the pass rush relatively well with screens and quick routes, and clean up their early season turnover woes.

I think our offense will continue to take strides with the full WR group out there, but ultimately we won't make enough plays defensively to pull it out.

And I hope I'm dead ass wrong. :chuckle:
 
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31-27 San Francisco

I have a feeling this will be the week when we finally feel the pain of being down both starting CBs, even against a pretty unspectacular WR corps. I'm picturing a frustrating game where the Niners dink and dunk us to death, neutralize the pass rush relatively well with screens and quick routes, and clean up their early season turnover woes.

I think our offense will continue to take strides with the full WR group out there, but ultimately we won't make enough plays defensively to pull it out.

And I hope I'm dead ass wrong. :chuckle:
Welp. Looks like you got one half of the score right.

Regarding the division as a whole, the fact that the Ratbirds already used up their Fins and Cards games is huge.
 

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