AFC North: Final Word

October, 16, 2009
10/16/09
4:00
PM ET

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:

Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Pittsburgh expects to have a healthy Troy Polamalu for the first time since Week 1.
Men of Troy: After injuring his knee in Week 1, Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) safety Troy Polamalu is expected to return to the lineup Sunday against the Cleveland Browns (1-4). This will be a huge boost to a defense that’s been unable to finish games and create turnovers consistently this season. Even without Polamalu, the Steelers enter this weekend ranked No. 4 in total defense. But that’s mostly due to solid performances in the first three quarters of games. Look for Polamalu to bring that closer element back to Pittsburgh.

Browns out: Is this the final game for key members of the Browns? Cleveland has been at the center of trade rumors with the deadline to move players approaching on Oct. 20. Trade talk involving return specialist Joshua Cribbs, tailback Jamal Lewis and quarterback Brady Quinn, who recently put his house on the market, have all made the rounds, but any major trade appears unlikely.

Containing Johnson: One reason the Cincinnati Bengals have won four in a row is because of the team’s ability to shut down top receivers. In back-to-back wins, Baltimore Ravens No. 1 receiver Derrick Mason and Cleveland's Edwards were both held to zero receptions. The Bengals have arguably the NFL’s most underrated secondary, and they will get another test in Houston Texans star receiver Andre Johnson, who had eight catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Arizona Cardinals.

It’s a snap: Keep an eye on special teams this week as long-snapper Clark Harris makes his debut for the Bengals. The past 10 seasons, Brad St. Louis handled those duties but got into a major funk this season that included bad snaps in four of the team’s five games. Cincinnati tried to remain patient but finally moved on after St. Louis had two bad snaps (one called back via penalty) in last week’s win over the Ravens.

Balance in Baltimore: Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron says he has no regrets for the team’s astounding pass-to-run ratio of 84-to-35 in consecutive losses to the New England Patriots and Cincinnati. Starting tailback Ray Rice is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and deserves more opportunities. Backup Willis McGahee also got just one carry against the Bengals. Running this week will be a tall task against the front seven of the undefeated Minnesota Vikings (5-0), who have three Pro Bowl caliber defensive linemen in Jared Allen and Pat and Kevin Williams.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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