- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
Bengals' tickets are selling better than expected as the team looks to sell out its game with the Ravens before Thursday's 4:15 p.m. blackout deadline, according to the team's website.
In response to the Bengals' "buy one, get one free" offer to season-ticket holders, there were as many as 40 people on hold on the phone lines during dinnertime Tuesday, which has prompted the team to bring in former staff members and reassign current ones to handle the ticket demand. Jeff Berding, the club's director of sales, told the website that the team has been "extraordinarily busy" from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday and through 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“We’re doing whatever we can to get tickets in people’s hands as quickly as we can,” Berding said.
The idea for this promotion came from Bengals president Mike Brown and executive vice president Katie Blackburn, according to the Berding.
Hensley's slant: The Bengals are starting to make all the right moves recently, from the 2011 draft to the Carson Palmer trade to this promotion. The best thing that could happen is that the excitement generated from all of this will spill into next season. Of course, as the Bengals try to sell out this play-in postseason game, you have to wonder what the attendance would be like for this game if the team was having a losing season.
BROWNS: The Browns are focusing their effort on ending a bad season on a good note with an upset victory over the Steelers. “It would make the offseason feel a little bit better,” free safety Mike Adams told the Akron Beacon Journal. “I know that. Going to the offseason with a victory is always nice. You don’t want to have that bad taste in your mouth in the offseason. Then you’ve gotta come back here, work out knowing that Pittsburgh beat you again. It’d be interesting. It’d mean a lot to the city. I know what it would mean. It’d be huge.” Hensley's slant: A win would provide some short-term relief. A loss, though, would actually help the Browns in the long run. Cleveland could fall out of the top 5 in next year's draft if it beats Pittsburgh, which would hurt the Browns' chances of selecting a top offensive playmaker. Is a fifth win this season really worth a shot at Robert Griffin or Trent Richardson?
RAVENS: Head coach John Harbaugh didn't seem too concerned about the Ravens' run defense even though Peyton Hillis became the third running back to gain more than 100 yards rushing on Baltimore this year. The Ravens had allowed three running backs to crack 100 yards in the previous two seasons. "I thought we played good defense," Harbaugh said, via The Baltimore Sun. "Overall, we gave up one drive, essentially, and that’s not bad.” Hensley's slant: The run defense really hasn't been that much of a concern this year because the Ravens are 2-1 in games when they've allowed more than 100 yards and they were ranked No. 2 against the run entering last Saturday. Baltimore will need Ray Lewis and the rest of the front seven to step up in the playoffs if the Ravens face a run-oriented team like Houston or Denver in the playoffs.
STEELERS: Head coach Mike Tomlin was noncommittal on whether rookie Marcus Gilbert will get back his starting right tackle job, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Tomlin benched the second-round pick last Saturday after he missed a team meeting. Jonathan Scott started in place of Gilbert, whose participation amounted to blocking on field goal and extra point attempts. Hensley's slant: It would be surprising not to see Gilbert back in the starting lineup. But Tomlin had to send a strong message to the rookie. Gilbert got off to a rocky start when he reported to training camp overweight. So, Tomlin has to remind him the consequences when he slacks off.