Through four weeks, the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals are at three wins apiece, while the Cleveland Browns join the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1-2-1. But with the Ravens coming to Cleveland this Sunday, the Bengals hosting a once-undefeated Miami Dolphins squad and the Steelers facing the high-scoring Atlanta Falcons, the complexion of the AFC North could be much different come Monday morning.
Here’s all the need-to-know news around the division, starting with Cleveland’s formidable Week 5 opponents.
Baltimore Ravens: It’s always good to do a little reconnaissance on an upcoming opponent, so how about this: Baltimore Beatdown’s Logan Levy put the tape on to dissect the Ravens’ Week 4 drubbing of the Steelers’ defense. That didn’t include many contributions by veteran receiver Michael Crabtree, though, leaving Frank J. Platco wondering whether the Ravens “have a Michael Crabtree problem.”
For all other Ravens-Browns coverage leading into Sunday’s game, Baltimore Beatdown’s Storystream is being regularly updated, and includes news that cornerback Brandon Carr will remain a starter despite the return of Jimmy Smith from suspension.
Pittsburgh Steelers: ESPN reported earlier this week that holdout Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will return to the team during their Week 7 bye. But Behind the Steel Curtain’s Simon Chester notes that head coach Mike Tomlin as well as a number of Bell’s teammates have yet to hear from the back, let alone have received confirmation from him that he’s indeed targeting Week 7 as the end of his extended absence.
The Steelers have one win so far this season and there are myriad reasons for it. But, until the team starts “being more honest about what those problems are,” there will be no way to implement solutions, writes Chester. And he’s not wrong; Tomlin displayed this ignorance himself this week by claiming that penalties are what have hurt Pittsburgh’s offense early in games. Chester’s got the rebuttal: the Steelers have yet to be flagged on offense on their opening drives, and the problems lie elsewhere.
Cincinnati Bengals: In order for the Bengals to best the Dolphins on Sunday, Cincy Jungle’s Matt Minich says the defense must take care of business against Miami’s passing game and quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Man coverage, says Minich, is one key to success against Tannehill’s arm and Miami’s receivers.
That Cincinnati defense could get some additional help this week. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is back on the practice field after a four-game suspension served for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, and, according to John Sheeran, this time he’s in great shape. Often after previous suspensions, Burfict has been out of shape, but not this time, which means he could very well play against the Dolphins on Sunday.