AFC North: 2011 Week 9 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Bengals 24, Titans 17

November, 6, 2011

Thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 24-17 win at the Tennessee Titans:

What it means: The Bengals continue to validate themselves as playoff contenders. They came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to win their fifth straight game, their longest winning streak since 1988 (point of reference: quarterback Andy Dalton was 1 year old at the time). Cincinnati (6-2) will either share first place in the AFC North (if the Ravens beat the Steelers) or have sole possession of second place (if the Steelers beat the Ravens).

Thumbs up: Dalton. The rookie quarterback threw for 217 yards and three touchdowns, but the impressive part was how he threw the touchdowns. In rallying the Bengals, he threw two touchdowns -- a 15-yard pass to Jerome Simpson in the third quarter and a 5-yarder to Andre Caldwell in the fourth -- with high velocity. Unlike most first-year starters, Dalton isn't afraid with throwing in between the numbers.

Second-half shutdown: Dalton was able to bring back the Bengals because Cincinnati's defense dominated Tennessee in the second half. Titans running back Chris Johnson was limited to nine yards after halftime and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had only 106 yards passing in the second half. The Bengals' defense nearly scored for the fourth straight week, but Carlos Dunlap's touchdown was taken away because replays showed it wasn't a backward pass.

What's next: The Bengals get back into AFC North play when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game will mark the first sellout at Paul Brown Stadium this year.

Wrap-up: Texans 30, Browns 12

November, 6, 2011

Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 30-12 loss at the Houston Texans:

What it means: The Browns cemented their position as the worst team in the AFC North with another painful first quarter (trailed 14-0 eight minutes into the game). Cleveland lost for the fourth time in five games to fall to 3-5. The Browns' average margin of defeat over that span has been 13.3 points.

Thumbs up: Kicker Phil Dawson. He provided all of the Browns' scoring for the first three quarters with field goals of 50 and 51 yards. This has become status quo for Dawson, who has six kicks of 50 yards or longer this season.

Thumbs down: Browns run defense. The NFL's 26th-ranked run defense looked worse, giving up 261 yards (Cleveland had given up 127.3 yards on the ground entering this game). Arian Foster (124 yards) and Ben Tate (115) outgained the entire Browns offense 239-172.

Running on empty: No one expected much out of the Cleveland running game with Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty sidelined. Chris Ogbonnaya fumbled on his first carry in his first start (which led to Houston's second touchdown of the first quarter) and finished with 28 yards on 13 carries (2.2 yard average).

What's next: The Browns return home to play the St. Louis Rams for their third game against an NFC West team in four weeks.