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Monday, October 29, 2012
Wake-up: Steelers close gap on Ravens

By Jamison Hensley

The outlook for the AFC North has certainly changed over the past 15 days. On Oct. 14, the Ravens beat the Cowboys and the Steelers were still reeling from a loss at the Titans a few days prior. Baltimore had opened a 2.5-game lead on its chief rival and it looked like the Ravens were going to run away with the division.

Now, the Ravens (5-2) reconvene after their bye with just a one-game advantage over the Steelers (4-3), who have won two straight games. The Bengals (3-4), who were on a bye as well, remain two games back of Baltimore.

Let's not forget about the Browns, who won for the second time this season. They are still in last place in the division but they have as many wins as Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints this season.

On a side note, millions will be affected by Hurricane Sandy this week. Strong winds and heavy rain are expected for the area surrounding AFC North headquarters and there is potential for widespread power outages. This could affect the blog activity over the next couple of days.

Well, enough of the Weather Channel, and on to the wake-up call ...

RAVENS: Even though Cleveland only allowed six points Sunday, The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Cowherd thinks the Browns game is the perfect one for the Ravens' offense to bounce back. "There are no gimmes on the road, not in the parity-is-sacred NFL. But the Browns aren't the Houston Texans," Cowherd wrote. "The Ravens won't have a better chance all season to show they can score points away from home. And it's high time they did."

STEELERS: The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette's Ron Cook says Ben Roethlisberger outplayed rookie Robert Griffin III. Roethlisberger acknowledged that he heard ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson predict that RG3 would outperform him. Cook wrote: "Griffin lived up to the pregame accolades. He's a wonderful quarterback. But Roethlisberger was better. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 222 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was a strong 121.0."

BENGALS: Head coach Marvin Lewis indicated there are no plans to move Rey Maualuga from middle linebacker. But Geoff Hobson, of the team's official website, believes a change could happen next season. "There are those that think the Bengals future alignment could feature Maualuga at SAM backer and [Vontaze] Burfict in the middle," Hobson wrote. "Lewis indicated he's keeping things the same, but it's a spot to watch as the season unfolds." Maualuga is an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

BROWNS: The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto points out that the Browns' win over the Chargers proves they are still focused on winning and improving. "The defense played with purpose. The offense stayed away from major mistakes," Pluto wrote. "The team played exactly like that -- as a team, on a day when no one really wants to play football. For Browns fans, that was a reason to smile."