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AFC North in Review: Week 5

Steelers, Ravens lead the division, Bengals look reborn and the Browns are just a half game back

NFL: OCT 08 Ravens at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The AFC North is so weird. The Cleveland Browns were on a bye last week, that’s not really important to anyone. The Baltimore Ravens were the only team in the division to take an L this week, the Pittsburgh Steelers found a way to win a game that they had no business winning and the Cincinnati Bengals were able to save their season from derailing.

By the time this review is over with, I’m pretty sure fans should come to reasonable conclusions about the AFC North and not have over-reactive takes but it’s not going to happen.

Baltimore Ravens 10, Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Let’s get this game out the way because there is a lot to unpack.

For the Steelers, I honestly don’t know how they won this game. People will chalk it up to coaching (didn’t think the coaching was that great for Pittsburgh on Sunday) or some voodoo put on head coach Mike Tomlin. But a win is a win, linebacker T.J. Watt played great as always (still believe Myles Garrett is better but that’s another topic for another day) and the Steelers are now 3-2 and first in the AFC North.

Don’t let the record fool you, this Steelers team is not as good as their record. Outside of the one game-winning drive by quarterback Kenny Pickett (in which Pickett apparently audibiled out of the suggested play call from offensive coordinator Matt Canada which appeared to bother Canada), the offense looked inept for most of the game. Canada is probably going to get fired (it might be a while before it happens) but the offense has issues beyond him.

Defensively, when the unit isn’t getting breaks or getting turnovers it isn’t great.

Still don’t get how this team is 3-2, it has to be something.

As for the losing team, Baltimore had another inexcusable loss. You can’t put all of the blame on quarterback Lamar Jackson for this one. Jackson had an inexcusable throw in the redzone late in the game but his receivers didn’t do him any favors.

Multiple drops from Nelson Agholor, Rashod Bateman and rookie Zay Flowers left points on the board for the Ravens. As far as Jackson goes, he played well enough for his team to get the win but miscues and unforced errors led to Baltimore losing this game in which they outplayed their opponent for the majority of the time.

This was also another week in which Baltimore came out flat in the 2nd half, only this time it ended up costing them. Tight end Mark Andrews said it best.

The question is when they will wake up because the team needs to put it together sooner rather than later.

Cincinnati Bengals 34, Arizona Cardinals 20

Congratulations Bengals, your season isn’t on life support anymore.

In all seriousness, Cincinnati had to win this game against the Arizona Cardinals (tough day to be a Josh Dobbs supporter but let me stop) in order to not fall further down the AFC playoff picture and the AFC North basement.

Quarterback Joe Burrow played a good game for once, now the excuses will stop. Wide receiver Ja’marr Chase said in a postgame interview after the team lost to the Tennessee Titans that he’s always open, and he was for the most part against the Cardinals. Like the popular convenience store 7/11, he’s always open.

Chase appeared to be the game plan for most of the day with wide receiver Tee Higgins sitting out with a rib injury.

As far as the team goes, I assume this is a confidence builder but with the roster deficiencies, the Cardinals are not a good team. If the team loses the turnover battle, don’t expect them to come back; they just have too many holes to overcome.

As far as the Bengals go, the pass protection is still an issue and for some reason teams are running the ball at will against this Bengals run defense. Do I see these problems getting fixed? I don’t know but the Bengals run defense being an issue is a bit of a surprise.

The team got a win that was much needed, Burrow was able to push the ball down the field, and when you give Chase the ball good things will happen. I’m not saying the Bengals are back but they needed a win like this to prevent fans from flipping out.

What do you think about where the AFC North stands after five weeks? Surprised by the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals at this point beyond just their records?