Monday, October 1, 2012
Wake-up call: Ravens, Bengals still on top
By Jamison Hensley
Through the first quarter of the regular season, the Ravens and Bengals continue to have the best records in the AFC North at 3-1, but they've gotten there in two different ways. The Ravens have won all three at home, and the Bengals have had to play three on the road. Baltimore has beaten three teams who lead or share first place in their division, and Cincinnati has beaten three teams whose combined record is 3-9. What the Ravens and Bengals do have in common is a 1.5-game lead on the Steelers (1-2) and a three-game margin on the last-place Browns (0-4). Now, on to the wake-up call:
BENGALS: Marvin Lewis' faith in undrafted linebacker Vontaze Burfict has paid off for the head coach, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty. Burfict had a team-best eight tackles in the win over the Jaguars, two of them for loss, and a sack, his first in the NFL. "The coach told Burfict what he tells every player who needs telling: Do not waste your time and talent, because no matter how big your talent is, your time isn’t guaranteed," Daugherty wrote. "When you have a chance to be a player, be one. What Lewis has now, in his 10th season in Cincinnati, is a team that seems to listen."
BROWNS: Josh Cribbs isn't expected to miss Sunday's game against the Giants, a league source told The Plain Dealer, although the wide receiver will be re-tested this week after suffering a concussion in Thursday night's game. Coach Pat Shurmur said the hit on Cribbs by Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe wasn't illegal. "It was a good hard hit," Shurmur said. "I don't know if I have a problem with it. I don’t like the fact Josh got hurt, but I’ll leave it at that.” Strong safety T.J. Ward left the game with a cast on his right hand because of a thumb injury.
RAVENS: Coach John Harbaugh isn't happy about the fact that his defense has allowed three 300-yard passers (Michael Vick, Tom Brady and Brandon Weeden) in the past three games. "We are giving up too many yards right now on basically chunk plays," he said, via the team's official website. "It's been that way all year. We've had three, four, five chunk plays every game that have accounted for probably between 100 or 200 yards, I would say. And that's the stuff we really keep working on to clean up." The Browns had four pass plays that accounted for 114 yards.
STEELERS: Pittsburgh is confident its offense will produce big plays even though it has only one over 30 yards in the first three games, a 37-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace in Week 2. According to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 27 of the other 32 NFL teams have recorded plays longer than 37 yards. "I know we'll make them," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. "We have the people to do it. We have the quarterback to do it. Those tend to come in bunches. I'm happy with the way we're moving the football. We're moving the chains. The big plays will come. We're not forcing the issue." Big plays in the passing game will be easier if the Steelers can get a running game. Every defense can play a two-deep zone against Pittsburgh.