Right now, the Cincinnati Bengals are atop the AFC North with a 4-1 record. But the complexion of the division could change significantly after Sunday, when the Bengals play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Meanwhile the Browns take on the Los Angeles Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens take on the Tennessee Titans, with wins for both keeping them well in the race for the AFC North crown. With that in mind, here’s what the division has been up to leading to their respective Week 6 contests.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Yes, it’s Bengals week for the Steelers, which means it’s a more tense week than usual. The Bengals and Steelers have seen their rivalry go from merely physical to downright brutal, with injuries being part of the storyline for nearly every meeting in recent years.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is ready for the brutality to end. On Wednesday, Roethlisberger said that it’s time to put the past behind them “and play like it’s a normal football game,” according to Jeff Hartman of Behind the Steel Curtain.
Is it also time for the Steelers to put the idea of “Vince Williams, starting linebacker,” behind them as well? Nick Farabaugh felt compelled to ask that question after L.J. Fort stepped in admirably for the injured Williams in Week 5’s win over the Atlanta Falcons. Fort, however, is dealing with an ankle injury, so the Steelers may not be able to make any personnel switches at inside linebacker until after their Week 7 bye.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are banged up at the tight end position. Not only have they lost Tyler Eifert for the season with an ankle injury, Tyler Kroft is now in a walking boot an using a scooter to get around after injuring his foot in Sunday’s defeat of the Miami Dolphins. These developments have led the Bengals to sign tight end Matt Lengel off of the Houston Texans’ practice squad, per Cincy Jungle’s Jason Marcum. Lengel was an undrafted rookie signing of the Bengals’ in 2015 and was on the Browns’ practice squad last year.
Matt Minich breaks down the film from the Bengals’ win over the Dolphins in Week 5 and has come to two conclusions: Cincinnati’s pass defense was the team’s biggest key to victory on that side of the ball, while on offense, quarterback Andy Dalton’s ability to come through in the clutch made the biggest impact.
Baltimore Ravens: The Browns aren’t the only team dealing with dropped passes on offense. Though Ravens receiver Michael Crabtree had six receptions in their team’s overtime loss in Cleveland last week, it was the passes he dropped that proved to be the real difference-makers. Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank J. Platko broke down Crabtree’s Week 5 drops and also noted that Crabtree has spent his post-practice time this week catching from the JUGGS machine in an attempt to turn things around.
Crabtree’s drops were only part of the reason why the Ravens’ offense faltered against the Browns on Sunday. Logan Levy takes to the tape to illustrate how Baltimore’s receivers lacked separation and how quarterback Joe Flacco often couldn’t see open targets, two more factors that led to Sunday’s loss.