AFC North: 2013 Week 4 QB Watch

QB Watch: Ravens' Joe Flacco

October, 2, 2013
A weekly examination of the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback play:

Rewind: Joe Flacco threw five interceptions, the most in his 97-game career (including playoffs). Three were his fault. He didn't see a defender on two of them, and another was an underthrown pass in the end zone. Not a surprise that Flacco's turnovers played a major factor. Three of them were converted into 13 points, which is huge in a game decided by a field goal. His last interception essentially ended the game. Flacco struggled throwing the ball deep, going 4-for-14 on passes of more than 15 yards. He also struggled on the shorter passes, throwing four interceptions on passes that traveled fewer than 15 yards.

Fast-forward: Flacco looks to bounce back in Sunday's game at Miami, which has the 25th-ranked pass defense. The question is whether Flacco will have time to throw the ball downfield. He was hit 12 times against Buffalo and sacked four times. Flacco and the Ravens would catch a break if Cameron Wake, the Dolphins' top pass-rusher, can't play. He missed Monday night's game with a sprained knee.

Bumpy road: The challenge for Flacco is improving on the road. After a playoff run in which he won at Denver and at New England, Flacco has failed to have the same success away from home this season. His 22.8 Total QBR on the road is only better than Chad Henne's, Eli Manning's and Geno Smith's this season. Flacco's seven interceptions on the road is two more than any other quarterback in 2013.

Prediction: No one expects Flacco to rip the Dolphins' defense like Drew Brees did Monday night. But Flacco has a good history of bouncing back after poor performances. I would be surprised if Flacco didn't have an efficient performance while throwing between 230 and 250 yards.
A weekly analysis of the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback play:

Rewind: Ben Roethlisberger completed 36 of 51 passes for 383 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a 34-27 loss to the Vikings. Roethlisberger threw for more than 375 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. He also nearly led the Steelers back from a 17-point third-quarter deficit. Roethlisberger drove the Steelers to the Vikings' 6-yard line in the waning seconds of the game, but he lost a fumble when he was sacked on third down.

Fast Forward: Roethlisberger has six turnovers in the past two games. He said he doesn't count the last fumble as a turnover because he tried to get rid of the ball when he couldn't get out of the grasp of Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen with the Steelers out of timeouts. Roethlisberger said his interception earlier in the game resulted in a miscommunication between him and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders after Roethlisberger started scrambling.

Pass-happy in London: Roethlisberger's 51 pass attempts against the Vikings were the second-most of his career. The Steelers threw the ball at a 2-1 ratio in London because they played from behind -- not because the running game was ineffective. Rookie Le'Veon Bell performed as well as could be expected in his NFL debut, and Roethlisberger made it a point to tell the former Michigan State star on the plane ride that he had been impressed with his play. Look for the Steelers to show more balance on offense after they return from their bye.

Prediction: Continued improvement on offense is probably the biggest reason for optimism that the Steelers can rebound from an 0-4 start. Roethlisberger's supporting cast has received a serious upgrade with the return of Bell and tight end Heath Miller from injuries. And Roethlisberger at least proved last Sunday that the Steelers are rarely out of a game as long as he is the quarterback. "We just have to not take any steps back and keep trying to get better," Roethlisberger said, "because we feel that we are close."

QB Watch: Browns' Brian Hoyer

October, 2, 2013
A weekly analysis of the Browns’ quarterback play.

Rewind: Brian Hoyer did what few thought he could: Repeat his performance from his first start and win a second game. Hoyer went from third team to two-time winner, and now could match Otto Graham as the only quarterbacks in Browns' history to win their first three starts. Hoyer threw for 269 yards, two touchdowns and completed 66 percent of his passes. His decisiveness and quick decision-making have been key to his sound play and the team’s success.

Fast-forward: The Bills intercepted Joe Flacco five times in the win over the Ravens, playing opportunistic and aggressive defense. Buffalo leads the NFL with nine picks and has a defensive front that includes Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. It’s evident things get no easier for Hoyer, who will have to be careful with the ball and be quick in his reads. He’s shown the ability to do both -- going from throwing three interceptions in his first game to none in his second. It’s amazing to say, but the way Hoyer has played in his two starts generates a lot of confidence.

Tight play: Jordan Cameron's five touchdowns in September are tied for the most by a tight end in NFL history. Cameron was a mid-round pick in the Tom Heckert era, and former president Mike Holmgren thought Cameron would emerge a year ago. He didn’t, but under the tutelage of Norv Turner, Cameron has had an All-Star month. Cameron’s five TDs are one fewer than the team record for tight ends in a season, set by Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome.

Prediction: One thing cannot be doubted: Rob Chudzinski and Turner will not become passive with Hoyer. The two are aggressive coaches, and they have not handled Hoyer with anything close to kid gloves. While some coaches would fall back on the old “manage the game” concept, Chudzinski and Turner have been aggressive with an inexperienced player. Hoyer will have every chance to top 200 yards; the one thing he can’t do is turn the ball over.