Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy doesn't expect running back Cedric Benson to return to the Bengals.
Benson is the team's leading rusher and is on pace for his third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. He signed a one-year, $3 million contract before the season to remain with Cincinnati and becomes an unrestricted free agent at its end.
Asked last night if Benson is gone after this season, Reedy responded on Twitter: "I can see a mutual parting of the ways."
Hensley's slant: Benson is basically a lock to give a team 1,000 yards and six rushing touchdowns each season. But there are two factors working against him: his age (he turns 29 later this month) and his off-the-field problems. The Bengals don't seem sold on Bernard Scott as a feature back, so look for them to address running back in the draft. Cincinnati would be set if it added a young runner to an offense that has quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.
BROWNS: Just like team president Mike Holmgren and coach Pat Shurmur, Browns general manager Tom Heckert was non-committal on the future of quarterback Colt McCoy. "We'll have to really, really look at it after the season," he said, via The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Heckert, though, acknowledged that the team can fully evaluate McCoy even though the offensive line has had trouble protecting him and the wide receivers are among the league leaders in drops. Hensley's slant: By the time it's Week 15, you know as an organization whether McCoy is your quarterback or not. So not publicly committing to him basically says you're not committed to him. The real question is whether Cleveland uses its top-10 pick on a quarterback.
RAVENS: The Ravens are looking to rattle Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. “He is a quarterback that hates to get hit and loves to win,” Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said, via the team's website. “If we can get in front of his face and hit him often, I think it gets him a little frustrated.” Baltimore leads the NFL with 45 sacks. Rivers, who has 17 interceptions, has turned the ball over at least twice in six of San Diego's seven losses. Hensley's slant: That will be the key to the game. The Ravens have to get to Rivers before he can get the ball to his playmakers. Baltimore has had it relatively easy when it comes to playing mediocre or young quarterbacks this season. The Chargers are the highest-ranked passing attack that the Ravens face all season (San Diego is No. 7).
STEELERS: Head coach Mike Tomlin said via The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has to practice at least one day (even if it's limited) if he's going to play against the 49ers. "I'm going to do everything I can to be out there," said Roethlisberger, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 14 against Cleveland. "I don't know if it's my decision. If it was just a matter of pain, I'd be out there. It's physically unable to do certain things." Roethlisberger got fitted for a plastic brace Thursday, which he'll use if he practices Friday or plays Monday night. Hensley's slant: Most league observers say Roethlisberger won't play. But I just don't count out Roethlisberger anymore. If anyone can play with this injury, it's going to be him. But the Steelers have to think about the risk-reward here: Is there any chance that playing him Monday night could cause him to miss the playoffs?