AFC North: Final Word

September, 18, 2009
9/18/09
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker


Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend's games:

Jason Bridge/US Presswire
Willie Parker, who gained a paltry 1.5 yards per rush against the Titans, looks to rebound against the Bears.
Grounded attack: The rushing attack of the Pittsburgh Steelers was unable to get off the ground in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans. The Steelers averaged an abysmal 1.6 yards per rush, and leading rusher Willie Parker had 19 yards on 13 carries. Perhaps in an effort to take pressure off his teammates, Parker said this week that he takes the blame for Pittsburgh’s inability to run. But no tailback that carried the football last week was able to do much, showing the problems are bigger than one player. Pittsburgh will have had 10 days to clean up those mistakes.

Not the men of Troy: The Steelers will be playing without Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu (knee), and backup Tyrone Carter has some big shoes to fill. Against the Chicago Bears, look for other players such as James Harrison, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley to step up their games on the front seven by bringing a pass rush to try to rattle Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. With young receivers and a new quarterback, Chicago’s offense still looks out of sync with Cutler at the helm and Pittsburgh may be playing this unit at the right time.

Air Flacco: Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw the football 43 times and helped score 38 points in last week’s victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Sunday’s opponent, the San Diego Chargers, have had a surprisingly suspect pass defense in the past year despite a lot of athletic talent in the secondary. Although this should be more of a grind-it-out game between the Chargers and Ravens, throwing the football well at key moments could be the key for Baltimore on the road. Flacco has proved that he can shoulder that responsibility.

Hard Knocks in Cincy: The Cincinnati Bengals were kicking themselves this week for their surprising 12-7 loss to the Denver Broncos last week. The loss came at the hands of a fluke play that resulted in an 87-yard touchdown reception by Denver receiver Brandon Stokley to end the game. So where are the Bengals emotionally? Can Cincinnati recover and win a tough road game at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers or will the Bengals have a hangover? There has been heightening expectations surrounding the Bengals and this is a huge game. The Bengals do not want to fall to 0-2 with a Week 3 matchup upcoming against Pittsburgh.

Testing Kyle: Speaking of the Broncos, look for the Browns to challenge Denver quarterback Kyle Orton and see if he can beat them. Cleveland’s defense has increased its aggressiveness under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and registered four sacks of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre last week. Orton is no Favre, and he only led one aforementioned touchdown drive against the Bengals. Don’t expect Cleveland’s defense to be convinced Orton has already turned the corner with his new team.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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