Final Word: AFC North

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:

Off to the races: The biggest mismatch at Heinz Field is Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace against the Patriots secondary. Last year, Wallace burned New England for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots haven't been the only ones who struggled to keep up with Wallace. He has caught at least one reception longer than 40 yards in six consecutive games, which is one away from the longest such streak since the merger (this comes courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau). New England, which is last in the NFL in pass defense, has given up 37 completions over 20 yards -- six more than any other defense.

[+] EnlargeMike Wallace
Charles LeClaire/US PresswireSteelers receiver Mike Wallace burned the Patriots when the teams met last season -- and New England's pass defense is the NFL's worst this season.
Bad break: It was a bad time to have a bye for the Bengals, who had won three games in a row. Actually, it's never been a good time for a bye for Cincinnati. The Bengals have the worst winning percentage of any NFL team coming off the bye since 1990, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Their record is 5-16-1, which means they win less than 25 percent of the time after the break. If Cincinnati can reverse this trend at Seattle, Marvin Lewis would have the most wins (including playoffs) in franchise history, surpassing Sam Wyche.

Not so special: Mistakes have made the Browns' special teams among the worst in the NFL. Last Sunday, Cleveland had two field goals blocked and a punt returned for a touchdown (which was wiped away by a highly questionable block in the back call). Two weeks ago, the Browns allowed touchdowns on a kickoff return and a fake field goal. Now, they'll face their old special-teams coach, Brad Seely, and a potent 49ers return team. San Francisco is first in the league with seven punt returns of 20 yards or more and first in the NFL in kickoff return average with 30.9 yards per return.

In a rush: Arizona's Kevin Kolb has been sacked 18 times, the fourth-most in the NFL. The pocket won't be much safer Sunday, when the Cardinals play at Baltimore. The Ravens have 19 sacks, the most they've had at this point in a season since 2006. It's quite a turnaround for first-year defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano and the Ravens, who totaled a franchise-low 27 sacks last season. The Cardinals could be paying the price for passing over Terrell Suggs in the 2003 draft (they traded out of the sixth overall pick).

Tight coverage: One of the reasons the Steelers lost to the Patriots last season was their inability to cover tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had five catches for 72 yards and three touchdowns. Stopping the tight end hasn't been a problem for Pittsburgh this season. The Steelers have allowed two tight ends to score (the Ravens' Ed Dickson and the Texans' Owen Daniels), but none have cracked 70 yards receiving in a game. In fact, starting tight ends have been held to an average of 35.8 yards receiving per game.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

Insider