Wake-up call: Ugly Sunday for AFC North

October, 8, 2012
10/08/12
7:30
AM ET
Last season, you could make the argument that the AFC North was the best division in football after it sent three teams to the playoffs. On Sunday, it was the ugliest division in the league.

The Ravens (4-1) never got closer than eight yards away from the goal line. The Steelers (2-2) gave up a fourth-quarter lead for the third time in four games. The Bengals (3-2) failed to convert on 12 of 14 third-down chances. And the Browns (0-5) lost by 14 points after taking a 14-0 lead.

The top three teams in the division -- Ravens, Bengals and Steelers -- combined for two touchdowns and 15 punts. The last place team in the AFC North, the Browns, became the NFL's only winless team after the Saints won on Sunday night.

Here's what they're talking about in the AFC North cities (in order of the current standings):

RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston believes the Ravens should have blown out the Chiefs after having 10 days of rest. "They can't play and win games like this against quality teams," Preston wrote. "It is one thing to win big, and another to win ugly. On Sunday, the Ravens were pitiful."

BENGALS: The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy concludes the Bengals aren't going to stay in the upper half of the league for very long if they can't find a way to run the ball or convert on third downs. "While head coach Marvin Lewis has a habit of eschewing statistical trends, there is one that even he has to grudgingly agree with -- a third-down conversion rate under 25 percent will win games against the Jaguars and Browns, but when the level of competition gets tougher in two weeks, those chances decrease significantly," Reedy wrote.

STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gene Collier writes that the return of running back Rashard Mendenhall lifted a ragged offense. "Throughout the whole process, I had prepared for this moment," Mendenhall said. "I knew I'd be fine."

BROWNS: The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto thinks the Browns' loss at the Giants wasn't a step back. It was a flop. "The 14-point loss was the biggest of the year for Browns," Pluto wrote. "It's also one that makes you wonder what it will take for this team to finally win a game."

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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AFC NORTH SCOREBOARD