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Friday, October 15, 2010
Final Word: AFC North

By James Walker

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:

Colt McCoy
Colt McCoy makes his rookie debut against a Steelers team that's ranked fourth in the league in total defense.
Rookie magic? Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy will face a stiff test in his NFL debut Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are fourth in total defense and very aggressive, forcing three turnovers per game. But rookie quarterbacks in McCoy's class have had success this year. For example, Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams already has two wins under his belt, and last week Max Hall of the Arizona Cardinals upset the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in his NFL debut. McCoy will try to follow in those footsteps and pull off an upset against the Steelers, the No. 1 team in ESPN.com's Power Rankings.

"I'm proud to say that Sam and I are close, I know Max a little bit," McCoy said this week. "It's awesome to see a rookie quarterback go out there and do good things because the NFL is tough. It doesn't matter who you are playing, everybody is good. We are playing the best of the best, the best there is, so you have got to understand that. Obviously to see those guys do it, that will give you a little bit of confidence going out there."

Cleveland's Wildcat: The Browns will try to take the pressure off McCoy in his first start by mixing in the Wildcat offense with Josh Cribbs. Cleveland hasn't used the formation much this season, but it was very successful in the Browns' previous meeting against Pittsburgh last December. Cribbs led the Browns with 87 rushing yards on eight carries from the Wildcat formation to lead them to a 13-6 upset victory. The Steelers struggled against the formation and have to prove they can stop it. Whether it's on offense or in the return game, Cribbs has performed well against Pittsburgh.

Protecting Ben Roethlisberger: The last time these two teams played, the Browns also threw the kitchen sink at Pittsburgh and recorded eight sacks. The Steelers were in a late-season funk and the offense was baffled by the Browns. This year offensive line play has been much improved. But blocking for Roethlisberger, who is coming off a four-game suspension, is much different from blocking for Charlie Batch. Roethlisberger holds the ball longer than most quarterbacks and improvises to make big plays. Sometimes that can lead to sacks. Pittsburgh's offensive line will have to hold its blocks a little longer with Roethlisberger under center.

Budding rivalry: Although the two teams are in different divisions, there is a growing rivalry between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. This is the fourth time the two have played since 2007 and a 33-14 playoff romp by the Ravens over the Patriots last January certainly adds intensity and a revenge factor to Sunday's game. The teams are a combined 7-2 and firmly in the AFC playoff picture.

Ball control: Will Baltimore be able to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage against the Patriots again? In last year's playoff win, the Ravens were too physical for New England and ran the football 52 times for 234 yards. The Patriots' defense had to hear all offseason how it was manhandled by Baltimore. Rest assured, the Ravens still believe they're the more physical team and will try to establish that Sunday. Baltimore, led by Pro Bowl tailback Ray Rice, rushed for 233 yards in last week's win over the Denver Broncos.