Posts Tagged ‘ AFC North ’

The Best & Worst of Week 11

It’s NFL Wednesday, and it’s time to kick this day off with the Best & Worst of Week 11. Send all NFL related questions to thesportsexpress@gmail.com, post them on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/thesportsxpress, or on the Facebook fan page here:

This week had some great moments. Two of the worst teams are on the best side, and the whole AFC North is on the duds for this week. And it took two years for this ordeal to happen? What am I talking about? Just stay tuned and find out.

THE BEST

Brett Favre- Many people thought that the offseason drama that he caused about retiring and unretiring (again) would result in the same disaster that was the New York Jets. Instead it has been the opposite. Favre had the highest completion percentage of his career (88%) completing 22/25 passes and four touchdowns. This season, he has 21 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. The Vikings were at 10-6 team before he signed. Now they are on the verge of a potential Super Bowl trip and Brad Childress can thank him for his contract extension that he received.

The Cleveland Browns & Detroit Lions- The Browns and Lions played the best, and most entertaining game of the season and week. It was filled with drama, excitement, and the toughness displayed by Matthew Stafford after a time out was called (see worst of the week: Eric Mangini) was simply amazing. Stafford’s five touchdowns were the most by a rookie QB in 72 years (Ray Buivid did this for the Chicago Bears in 1937). The Browns showed more offense in this game than they have all season long. Brady Quinn was impressive, throwing for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. Who knew that the worst can bring out the best?

The Kansas City Chiefs- The Chiefs stayed in the game throughout against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it’s always said when a good team (and World Champions) plays a team that has struggled and not seen great times, and the bad team hangs in the whole game, they start to believe. The Chiefs started to believe and wanted the game more, and they showed in their overtime win. Has anyone noticed that this team is now 2-0 without Larry Johnson on the team? The Chiefs, Lions, and Oakland Raiders all won on the same day for the first time since September 30th, 2007.

THE WORST

The AFC North: The Bengals (with the aforementioned Larry Johnson) lost to the Raiders, in which they gave up the game and blew a seven point lead in the closing moments. The Steelers lost to the Chiefs, the Ravens came up short against the Colts, missing huge opportunities to capitalize off three Colts turnovers and a missed field goal by Billy Cundiff made the difference again. The Browns lost to the Lions, which was made by a bad decision by…..

Eric Mangini: Mangini is on here for a couple of reasons: 1. Your team is up 24-3, in the first quarter, you had to just coach up your defense, tell your coordinator to do something… the secondary just was flat, and Stafford torched them for 422 yards. 2. This was the real thing here: you suffered a terrible pass interference call on Hank Poteat, and the red hot Stafford is out of the game w/ a shoulder injury. The ice cold Daunte Culpepper enters the game, and “Man-genius” decided to call a timeout. For what?!?! This allows Stafford to enter the game with one arm and find Brandon Pettigrew for the GW touchdown. Too bad this is his last season in Cleveland. There’s no way he stays after this one.

Kris Brown: For the second straight game, against a DIVISION opponent, and to top this off, this is a HUGE rivalry game for your team, the Houston Texans. The score once again, was 20-17. And you missed for the second straight game. These two misses from the last original Texan has hurt this team, and they really could be looking at 7-3 instead of 5-5. The rope has to be getting tighter for the normally reliable kicker. Tough week for him indeed.

THE BEST OF THE WORST

Brady Quinn: Fellow blogger, The NFL Chick, said it best: He can throw a pass for more than eight yards. Quinn was very efficient on Sunday, going 21-33 for 304 yards and the four touchdowns to zero interceptions, giving him a QB rating of 133.1, which is very good. He was poised in the pocket, and this should really boost his confidence for the next game. Too bad his game was overshadowed by the dumb decisions of his head coach and the defensive side of the ball.

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NFL Midterms- AFC North

Week 9 is the official halfway mark of the NFL season as the clubs have reached their eighth game (with the exception of the Houston Texans and New York Giants, with nine). Originally this was going to be rankings, but I figured I’d do something differently,. At the end of the season, we’ll dish out the final exams. TSX will break down and give grades of each team by division AFC will be today, NFC will be tomorrow

Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)- Grade: A; Chad Ochocinco predicted that this team would go 12-4, and they are half way to that prediction with two impressive wins over Baltimore, a shocker against Pittsburgh in Cincinnati. This team is not only good on offense, but great on defense. Despite blows on both sides of the balls with injuries to Chris Henry and Antwan Odom, this team has matured greatly and are better than they were in 2005 when they last made the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)- Grade A; The Steelers have won five in a row and have scored at least 27 points in all five of their games during the win streak. This team has good balance on offense with Ben Roethlisberger passing, and Rashard Mendenhall running, and as with Steeler tradition, the defense is always on point. It will be a great showdown against the team that last beat them: the Bengals

Baltimore Ravens (4-4)- Grade: B-;The Ravens have had split personalities as of late. One minute they are good, the next minute they are not as good. Joe Flacco has had a decent season, and Ray Rice has performed well. The defense is not as dominating as they used to be, just due to the inconsistency. One good thing is that the Ravens make noise late in the season, and until they show otherwise, don’t be surprised if they do.

Cleveland Browns (1-7)- Grade: F; This team is just bad all around, from the front office to the coaching staff to the players. Give Randy Lerner credit for listening to the fans, and being passionate enough to get rid of a non-existent GM. Eric Mangini is not the coach for this team, and he will be gone after a season. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson have been awful, and the city of Cleveland deserves so much better than what they have right now.

Coming up next: The AFC South

AFC North Preview- Pittsburgh Steelers

The Champs are here, and not much has changed from the Super Bowl team from a year ago. One thing that you need to have for a championship ball club is balance on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. If there is one thing that is true about the Pittsburgh Steelers, is that they always have had balance on both sides of the ball throughout their franchise history, which has led them to a NFL-best Six Super Bowls, and with the same team virtually in place for the 2009 NFL Season, they are primed for a seventh.

On offense the Steelers are returning all 11 of their starters, and with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger leading the way, the Steelers are one of the best offenses in the NFL. They have the ability to mix the run and pass. Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Parker will be a good running duo, but I do see Mendenhall being ready to take more of the snaps. Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes are the two top receivers, but the #3 receiver in Nate Washington moved on to Tennessee, so expect a competition for Pittsburgh’s #3 receiver. Washington knew how to get deep from the slot position, so whoever is his replacement will have to do that. A speedster like Mike Wallace would be perfect for that position.

On Defense, the starters are intact except for Larry Foote and Bryant McFadden. The big priority was made when the Super Bowl MVP James Harrison signed an extension to stay in the Steel City. Harrison and the improved play of Lawrence Timmons at inside linebacker will offset the loss of Foote. William Gay (best known for his “yeaaaaah” at the Super Bowl parade) will be replacing McFadden, who left the champions for the runners up, the Cardinals. Gay is excellent in covering the pass, and the defense under Dick LeBeau will still be the best defense in the NFL. After all, the defense is what wins championships.

The Steelers are primed for a repeat. If they stay healthy and continue to gel as the unit they have been last season, there will be a seventh Super Bowl in the Steel City.

AFC North Preview- Cleveland Browns

A year ago, hope was very high in Cleveland. coming off a 10-6 season, and a playoff appearance in 2007, a lot of people felt that the Browns’ success would be repeated in 2008. But Derek Anderson faltered, the Browns turned to Brady Quinn, and he ended up being hurt for the rest of the season. The lack of success at QB, and the lack of defense crippled the Browns, and a 4-12 season led to the firing of Romeo Crennel, who saw very little success after being successful as the Defensive Coordinator for the New England Patriots.

The new head coach in Cleveland is former New York Jets coach Eric Mangini. Mangini, another Bill Belichick disciple. The first task for Mangini on offense will be having to choose between Quinn and Anderson. Brady Quinn showed flashes of brilliance before he got hurt, and should get the opportunity to expand on his skills. Derek Anderson however, needs to take advantage of this opportunity; if he doesn’t do it for the Browns, at least do it for himself so a team that will need a QB in the future can look at him and say “this is what we need”.

So we have put the quarterback situation to rest, the Browns have plenty of receivers, Braylon Edwards needs to catch passes and not drop them. David Patten should be a solid #2 receiver, and then Joshua Cribbs at #3. Expect the Browns to run a spread offense, and the competition should be fierce for the #4 spot. The RB is still going to be Jamal Lewis, and Steve Heiden should be at Tight End. The O-Line should be improved and create holes for Lewis in the running game, and protect Anderson and/or Quinn a whole lot better.

Mangini is going to lead the defense and he brought in Rob Ryan. They will stay with a 3-4 formation, and Shaun Rogers is still the big anchor at Nose Tackle. The Browns will need to improve on their linebacking corps and secondary to make a statement.

With a questionable situation and an uncertain defense, it just does not seem like the Browns are going to make a splash this season in this season. Once the QB situation is solidified, it will have to be up to the Browns to make something happen. If there is one thing that would make a season in Cleveland, it would be beating the Pittsburgh Steelers. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long 2009.

AFC North Preview- Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals had struggled all through out the 2008 season, losing many players and going to a 4-11-1 record. Carson Palmer was gone, Chad Ocho Cinco did not have his best season, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh ended up with his best season, and then went to Seattle. The Bengals did make up for it by signing Laveranues Coles away from the New York Jets.

On offense, Carson Palmer is back at the helm, and looking to regain his form. Instead of going for Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow, Palmer sat out and let the elbow heal, and in March, he stated that he was back at 100%. He has reliable targets in Ochocinco and Coles, and Cedric Benson is looking to be the feature back in the offense. Ochocinco is going to have to work hard and be consistent, which we have seen many times in his career. With all the things that happened in 2008, it can be understood why his numbers were his lowest since his rookie season. The offensive line is going to be need Andre Smith signed so he can provide a boost to an already questionable line that could put Carson Palmer’s health in jeopardy if they can’t protect him.

Defense needs to improve in Cincinnati, there is no consistent pass rush among the team, and although the run defense has improved with the addition of Mike Zimmer as the defensive coordinator, it won’t translate into much of anything if the D-Line can’t pressure the opposing quarterback. If Dhani Jones can tackle opposing players like he does the world on his Travel Channel show, then there should be some glimpse of hope on Cincy’s D.

Carson Palmer is the heart of this team, and. The Bengals will need him to be healthy and to be ready for this season. If he can light up the scoreboard and open up the run for Cedric Benson, then the Bengals can go far. If he struggles and provides inconsistency like he has in the past few years, expect another long and hard suffering season in Cincinnati.

AFC North Preview- Baltimore Ravens

The AFC North will be the first division that will be broken down by The Sports eXpress for the 2009 NFL Season. Fittingly enough, it should be started by the team that won the Super Bowl last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers won the AFC North and Super Bowl XLIII. With the same squad returning from last season literally, the Steelers are pretty much primed for a repeat run. The stiffest competition comes from the Baltimore Ravens, but they do have some major changes from last season, as Rex Ryan departed from Baltimore to be the head coach of the New York Jets. The Cincinnati Bengals are healthy once again, with their leader Carson Palmer back at QB, and are hoping to relive the success of 2005. They lost T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but gained a reliable weapon in Laveranues Coles to compliment Chad Ocho Cinco. The Cleveland Browns have a new head coach in Eric Mangini, and he is looking to turn around what his previous Bill Belichick disciple Romeo Crennel’s mess from the last couple of years in the Dawg Pound.

This season will be as follows:
1. Pittsburgh
2. Baltimore
3. Cincinnati
4. Cleveland

Here is the team by team breakdown of the AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens came off a surprising 11-5 season which the rookie coach, John Harbaugh, and the rookie QB, Joe Flacco proved that they could put consistency and finally give the Ravens a good, stable offense that complimented the superb defense that has been a staple for this franchise for years. The RB situation is still showing that Willis McGahee is the #1 man, and he does have a good power compliment in LeRon McClain and speed in Ray Rice. The Ravens did draft Cedric Peerman, who has a good combination of power and speed. Should he make the team, expect McClain to play his true position at fullback. Flacco has three good reliable targets in Mark Clayton, Todd Heap, and Derrick Mason, who retired and then decided to come back and play another season in Baltimore. Another good target would be Drew Bennett, but he has not reported to the team. On the offensive line, expect rookie Michael Oher to have an immediate impact on the offensive line. He has good size and will be a valuable asset in protecting Flacco and the running game.

On Defense, the Ravens are still strong as ever. Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg, and Trevor Pryce anchor the line, Ray Lewis is still the heart and soul of the defense and the team, and with a new contract in place for Terrell Suggs. The key loss from the LB corps was Bart Scott, who followed former Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan to the NY Jets, and the secondary is still the best in the game… Ed Reed is the game’s best Free Safety. No Chris McAlister, as he was released from his 7 yr, $55M deal, but the Ravens did bring in Domonique Foxworth, who is a good upgrade to compliment Chris Carr in the secondary.

One fixture that has been part of the Ravens for year is Matt Stover, who was one of the two original Ravens left from the team in 1996 (along with Ray Lewis), is now gone. Graham Gano and Stephen Hauschka are now in an open competition for the kicker’s job.

The Ravens are going to have another solid season, but it will still be a little bit until they catch up with Pittsburgh. But if any team in this division has what it takes to topple the Steelers, it is the Ravens.