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AFC North Week 8 in review: A couple winners, losers and a tight division

Browns, Steelers take losses while Ravens, Bengals keep on winning

Cincinnati Bengals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

In Week 8 of the 2023 NFL season, the Baltimore Ravens continue to strengthen their lead in the AFC North, both the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers winning streaks come to abrupt ends and the Cincinnati Bengals might be back (I’ll wait and see what they do against Buffalo).

It’s the AFC North and we are gonna talk about it:

Jacksonville Jaguars 20, Pittsburgh Steelers 10

The plot armor was eventually going to wear off eventually with this team (if you read the last AFC North in Review I said the Steelers were winning due to plot armor).

The harsh reality is settling in for Pittsburgh and the reality is this isn’t a good football team, this team is flawed. The Steelers can beat teams that are on their level, and they will occasionally win a game they have no business winning. However, if you match them up against a team that’s in a tier above them, they tend to get exposed.

Offensively, it’s bad. It’s been bad for the entire season. Steelers fans want to fire offensive coordinator Matt Canada (he’s not free of blame), but the offense has major issues. Issues moving the ball, not much creativity in play calling and much more. Quarterback Kenny Pickett will be in the league, just not in Pittsburgh, for a while. It’s unfortunate that Pickett was knocked out of the game due to a brutal hit he suffered but it seems as if he hasn’t made any strides this season, which is concerning.

The defense forced 3 takeaways, but Pittsburgh came away with 3 points. Not good.

Defensively, my opinion hasn’t changed. If they aren’t forcing turnovers this unit is pretty mediocre. Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence had his way against them, tight end Evan Engram had a day and running back Travis Etienne joined in.

As far as the officiating goes, yes the officiating was bad but it isn’t the reason why they lost. Missed calls happen but it doesn’t change the fact that the offense couldn’t capitalize on mistakes made by Jacksonville and they couldn’t get stops when they needed to. Don’t blame the refs:

Pittsburgh is the only team in the NFL with a winning record but a negative point differential. That’s not good. The way they win games is not sustainable and they were never serious threats to be a wild card team. Accept it.

Baltimore Ravens 31, Arizona Cardinals 24

Out of all the late window games that were on, the one game I didn’t pay much attention to was the Ravens-Cardinals game while it was going on. The score wasn’t an indictment of how close the game was, Arizona made it interesting towards the end (gambling people were focused on that).

Overall, Baltimore won and it wasn’t pretty but that’s something we should expect from this team. Wins are not easy to get in this league, anytime you get a win it’s a positive.

Offensively, it wasn’t the masterclass performance that they put on last week against the Detroit Lions but it was enough to get a victory. Running back Gus Edwards was able to lead the charge in the running game, rushing for 80 yards on 19 carries with a hat trick of touchdowns. Quarterback Lamar Jackson has improved as a passer, regardless of what people think. If the season ended today, he would be my pick to win MVP. He’s been that good.

Defensively, the unit pretty much took care of business but Arizona’s offense isn’t that good due to the quarterback being limited. Safety Geno Stone had himself a day and defensive tackle Michael Pierce played great as well. This unit continues to get better and better every week, and it shouldn’t be a surprise with the personnel and the coaching that they have.

Baltimore is sitting comfortably in the AFC North right now and they are also tied for the best record in the AFC. The Ravens can work on closing games a bit better but they are still the team to beat in the division.

Cincinnati Bengals 31, San Francisco 49ers 17

Just putting it out there, I picked the Bengals to win this game not because I believe in the Bengals but because the 49ers were entering the game banged up and sort of in a slump. But the million-dollar question that everyone wants to know is, is Cincinnati back?

They could be.

The Bengals swept the NFC West and out of the 4 wins that they had this was the best win. For once. Offensively, quarterback Joe Burrow appears to be back, which is great for them. The offense looked balanced for once this season which is also good. Also, Burrow’s mobility is something that I didn’t expect to see in this capacity:

Defensively, the unit is more bent and doesn’t break which isn’t a bad thing. Like the Browns defense, the Bengals made life uncomfortable for quarterback Brock Purdy. Cleveland’s defense pretty much put out the blueprint to stop Purdy. Cincinnati had two sacks, three turnovers (forced two interceptions). That’s a good job by defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.

Do I think the Bengals are back? They have the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night (I call the Bills the 76ers because they remind me of the NBA team Philadelphia 76ers, one week they are contenders the following week they are looking like a one-and-done team). That game will help decide if they are really back but the team has to understand that they have to deal with Cleveland (despite their issues on offense) and Baltimore. The Bengals aren’t bad by any means but they are slowly trying to dig themselves out of the hole that they dug themselves in.