Tuesday, October 12, 2010
AFC North Power Rankings analysis
By James Walker
This is a historic day for our community as the AFC North is dominant atop ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) and Baltimore Ravens (4-1) are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. This is the first time two AFC North teams have occupied the top spots in my three seasons doing the division blog.
Here is how the entire division fared:
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)
Cumulative vote: No. 1
Walker's vote: No. 1
Analysis: With the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints losing, there is no debate which is the No. 1 team this week. The Steelers received three first-place votes from our panel. ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton ranked Pittsburgh No. 3 behind the New York Jets and Ravens. I've received plenty of e-mails saying I'm jumping on Pittsburgh's bandwagon, but I disagree. For a month I explained that as soon as franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returns and the team is at full strength, my vote will go up. After five weeks Pittsburgh is currently the NFL's most complete team with Roethlisberger under center.
Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
Cumulative vote: No. 2
Walker's vote: No. 2
Analysis: Baltimore got a big push in the Power Rankings after pummeling the Denver Broncos 31-17. I thought the Ravens were underrated at No. 6 last week, and now the panel is finally catching on. Still, I'm sure Baltimore fans will complain that this ranking is too low after the Ravens beat the No. 1 team (Steelers) and the No. 3 team (Jets) on the road. It's a valid point. But the "Roethlisberger factor" was too big in the final vote.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)
Cumulative vote: No. 22
Walker's vote: No. 23
Analysis: The Bengals have playoff talent but too often they execute like a five-win team. Therefore, a No. 22 ranking is about right for this group. Penalties, turnovers and head-scratching coaching decisions are reasons this group is below .500 heading into the bye. I agree with ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer that Cincinnati is one of the NFL's biggest disappointments. It's a long season, but the Bengals are quickly approaching "pretender" status. A tough slate of upcoming games against Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis after the bye will determine if the Bengals are a legit contender for a playoff spot this year.
Cleveland Browns (1-4)
Cumulative vote: No. 29
Walker's vote: No. 30
Analysis: In what I think will be a season-long struggle, the Browns failed to string together consecutive wins with a loss to the Falcons. The Browns dropped two spots to No. 29 this week. With the Browns down to Colt McCoy and Brett Ratliff as the only two healthy quarterbacks, I placed them at No. 30. Cleveland has been competitive, but there aren't many teams it could beat right now with a rookie quarterback. Sunday's game against Pittsburgh could get ugly.