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Tuesday, September 14, 2010
AFC North Power Rankings analysis

By James Walker

The AFC North broke even in Week 1. The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers picked up huge wins, while the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals suffered defeats.

Week 2 is traditionally one of the toughest times to rate teams, because you never want to overreact positively or negatively to one game. But here are how things shook out for the AFC North in ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings:

Ravens (1-0)

Cumulative ranking: No. 3

Walker's ranking: No. 2

Analysis: Baltimore pulled out a quality win Monday on the road against the New York Jets. The Ravens' defense was lights out the entire game. If the offense catches up this season, there are plenty of reasons to believe Baltimore is a strong contender in the AFC. With the Indianapolis Colts losing, the Ravens are currently the highest-rated team in the AFC, according to ESPN.com's panel.

Steelers (1-0)

Cumulative ranking: No. 10

Walker's ranking: No. 14

Analysis: I am really surprised the Steelers are ranked in the top 10 without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. I was impressed with Pittsburgh's poise and defense. But, in my opinion, the team's 15-9 overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons wasn’t so overwhelming and dominant that the Steelers are now a top-10 team without "Big Ben." Pittsburgh jumped eight spots, which was one of the largest moves up this week. ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton even rated the Steelers No. 6 overall. I like the makeup of this year's team. But there are certainly more than five clubs better at this juncture with Roethlisberger sidelined.

Bengals (0-1)

Cumulative ranking: No. 17

Walker's ranking: No. 17

Analysis: I wasn't surprised the Bengals lost to New England. In fact, I picked that game correctly last weekend. But I was more surprised with how thoroughly dominated Cincinnati was by the Patriots. The Bengals didn't show up to play and fell behind 31-3. The Bengals dropped five spots to No. 17, with AFC South blogger Kuharsky rating Cincinnati the lowest at No. 20. After last week's showing, there's no doubt the Bengals still have a lot to prove.

Browns (0-1)

Cumulative ranking: No. 32

Walker's ranking: No. 31

Analysis: I called this one. After losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I wrote Monday that the Dawgpound shouldn't be surprised if Cleveland is voted last in our Power Rankings. The Browns will struggle this year, but I don't believe they're the worst team in the NFL. The talent is definitely lacking. Yet if Cleveland plays smarter, the team can be a headache for some opponents. I voted the Browns No. 31 this week, slightly ahead of the St. Louis Rams, who lost at home.