AFC North Power Rankings analysis


ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings are getting more and more interesting.

Being on the panel, I can say from experience it was challenging ranking 32 teams this week. Things were particularly tough in the AFC North, where the Pittsburgh Steelers lead the division but aren't playing at full strength without star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

I anticipate plenty of debate. So here are how things shook out for the AFC North:

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)

Cumulative ranking: No. 5

Walker's ranking: No. 8

Analysis: I owned up to my incorrect prediction of Pittsburgh struggling without Roethlisberger. But I'm sure I will still get bashed by Steeler Nation for saying Pittsburgh is currently overrated in our Power Rankings. Without Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh remains unbalanced -- the offense didn't score a touchdown last week -- but the defense and coaching have been so good that the Steelers are winning. ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton voted Pittsburgh No. 2 overall, which inflated the team's ranking. I voted the Steelers No. 8, one spot behind Baltimore, which I still believe is the most complete team with Roethlisberger sidelined. My theory will be tested in Week 4 when Pittsburgh plays the Ravens minus Big Ben.

Baltimore Ravens (1-1)

Cumulative ranking: No. 8

Walker's ranking: No. 7

Analysis: The Ravens didn't look good in Sunday's 15-10 loss to Cincinnati, but I'm not pushing the panic button. I still think Baltimore is one of the NFL's top teams. On the road, the Ravens got caught on a short week against an opponent that has their number. Clayton was at the Bengals-Ravens game and wasn't impressed. He ranked Baltimore the lowest on the panel at No. 12. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky kept the Ravens high at No. 3, despite the loss. Baltimore's defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown this season. But the offense is averaging just 10 points per game and needs to catch up. Look for an angry Ravens team to come back strong Sunday against Cleveland.

Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)

Cumulative ranking: No. 11

Walker's ranking: No. 10

Analysis: The Bengals were a tough team to rank. They looked listless in Week 1 against the New England Patriots, then toughened up with a quality win over Baltimore. I tend to think the Week 2 Bengals are more representative of this year's team. I ranked Cincinnati the highest of the panel at No. 10. Kuharsky called Cincinnati a "fluke" team to start the year and remains down on the Bengals. He had the lowest vote on the panel at No. 15. Some in "Bengaldom" may complain that Baltimore remains three spots higher than Cincinnati. But our panelists consider the entire body of work for two games, and Baltimore has been more competitive in that span.

Cleveland Browns (0-2)

Cumulative ranking: No. 30

Walker's ranking: No. 30

Analysis: The Browns blew another second-half lead, but they actually moved up two spots this week to No. 30. Our expert panel gave credit to Cleveland for losing to two surprise, undefeated teams in the Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0). But the Browns are only good for one half each week, and that will get you beat every time. Looking at their schedule, Cleveland may go a long stretch before getting its first win. So look for the Browns to be near the bottom of ESPN.com's Power Rankings for a while.