Tuesday, November 1, 2011
AFC North Stock Watch
By Jamison Hensley
1. Browns' offense: Cleveland has produced one touchdown and three 50-plus-yard field goals over the past two games. That's 13 points scored despite possessing the ball for 70 minutes. Injuries have hit every position on offense this season and knocked out the Browns' top two running backs the past couple of weeks. It's been equally painful to watch the Browns' offense getting held to 17 points or fewer in six of seven games this season.
2. Ravens' penalties: The Ravens not only have a way about playing down to the competition but they have kept one-win teams in games with penalties. Baltimore has been flagged 21 times for 184 yards in less-than-focused efforts against the Jaguars and Cardinals. Officials seem to be keeping a close eye on the Ravens, penalizing them twice for taunting against Arizona. Right tackle Michael Oher has accounted for 10 percent of the penalties this season (two for false starts and three f0r holding).
3. Injuries to Steelers linebackers: James Harrison has missed the past three games with an eye injury, James Farrior missed last Sunday's game with a calf injury and LaMarr Woodley missed a good portion of Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. The only starting linebacker who is healthy is Lawrence Timmons and he's playing out of position because of the injuries. There's a chance that the NFL's second-ranked defense could be missing three starting linebackers against Baltimore on Sunday night.
Anquan Boldin came up big on Sunday against Arizona.
1. Bengals' fourth-quarter defense: The Cincinnati defense has become the Mariano Rivera of the NFL. The Bengals have closed out the past three wins by scoring touchdowns in the final 2 1/2 minutes of games. The latest came Sunday when Reggie Nelson returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown with 36 seconds remaining. It's the first time the Bengals' defense has reached the end zone in three straight games since October 1983.
2. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: He's shrugged off a slow start to the season like it was another pass-rusher to become one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL. During the Steelers' four-game winning streak, Roethlisberger leads the NFL with 11 touchdown passes (while throwing just two interceptions) and ranks among the league leaders in passing yards (third with 1,154) and completion rate (sixth at 67.1), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Now, he gets ready to go against the Ravens and the top-ranked defense in the NFL.
3. Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin: It's taken longer than expected for Boldin to develop a rapport with Joe Flacco. Maybe it took removing Derrick Mason from the team for Flacco to start leaning on Boldin. Whatever the reason, Boldin has carried the Ravens at times, catching 19 passes and averaging 105.6 yards over the past three weeks. In the Ravens' comeback against Arizona, he delivered the big play in each of Baltimore's four scoring drives that led to 24 unanswered points.