AFC North: 2013 Week 5 Upon Further Review AFC

Upon Further Review: Bengals Week 5

October, 7, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Cincinnati Bengals' 13-6 win over the Patriots:

[+] EnlargeBenJarvus Green-Ellis
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanBenJarvus Green-Ellis scored the game's only against his former team, the Patriots.
Law Firm leads the way: On the Bengals' off day Tuesday, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis spoke to students at a southwest Ohio middle school. Leadership was the theme of his visit. "A leader is someone you can depend on," said Green-Ellis, the player whose lengthy, official-sounding name long ago earned him the nickname of "The Law Firm." Against his former team Sunday, he was every bit the offensive leader the Bengals needed, and more. A week after one of Cincinnati's worst single-game offensive collapses, Green-Ellis was out to prove that he and his unit weren't as bad as they had showed against the Cleveland Browns. Green-Ellis heard the criticisms about the Bengals' lacking run game and wanted to silence them. Against the Patriots, he rushed 19 times for 67 yards and the game's only touchdown on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-1.

Huber helps again: If there were an Unsung Hero Award to hand out after five games, punter Kevin Huber would receive it. He's been consistent this season, working high punts into places where his coverage team can quickly swallow returners. He's stifled some of the NFL's best punt returners and helped the Bengals hold a potentially explosive Julian Edelman in check Sunday. A case could be made that Huber's performance against the Patriots was his worst of the season, but that shows just how valuable he has been. Called upon six times, he averaged 45.8 yards on his punts. One traveled 57 yards; two, including a pair of first-quarter punts, landed inside the 20. Those helped set the tone for the Patriots' day of poor field position.

Offense getting closer: For some, the most refreshing part of Cincinnati's first half was seeing the offense successfully tinker with its identity on a series of drives. The first four-play drive featured the rushing attack. After going backward on their second drive, the Bengals' third possession showcased their tight end talent. The fourth drive was a mix of passing to the tight ends and running backs, and the fifth finally got the wide receivers involved. Quarterback Andy Dalton also had a few keepers during the game that showcased a little-used area of his game: mobility. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was encouraged by what he saw but believes that his offense still has improvements to make. "We haven't come close to our standards yet, but brighter days are ahead," he said.

Dominant defense: While Cincinnati's offense rushed for 162 yards and passed for 179, the day's biggest storyline revolved around the 166 passing yards by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the zero touchdown passes he threw. It was the first time since the second week of the 2009 season that he hadn't thrown a touchdown. It also was the 19th consecutive time the Bengals hadn't allowed a quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards. To say the defense was dominant might be an understatement. The unit, which had four sacks and a crucial late-game interception, was so good that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer received the game ball.

Upon Further Review: Ravens Week 5

October, 7, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Baltimore Ravens' 26-23 win over the Miami Dolphins:

[+] EnlargeRay Rice
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesThe numbers show that getting Ray Rice the ball often spells victory for the Ravens.
Feed Rice the ball: It's important to get the ball to running back Ray Rice, whether handing it off or throwing it to him in space. If you don't believe me, look at the numbers. In Rice’s career, the Ravens are 23-3 when Rice has at least 25 touches and 30-24 when he is active and does not, according to ESPN Stats & Information. When you factor in Rice's 102 yards on 33 touches Sunday, Baltimore has won 20 straight games when he has at least 25 touches. The Ravens have to be careful not to wear down Rice because he's dealing with a hip injury. But you've seen flashes of Rice bouncing back into form, especially in the red zone. He reached the end zone twice Sunday, and if you needed another number favoring him, the Ravens are 22-5 when he scores a rushing touchdown.

Showstoppers: The Ravens' defense is becoming one of the game's top finishers. That is, when it comes to stopping drives or closing out games. On Sunday, the Ravens allowed yards on just three of the Dolphins' pass plays in the fourth quarter. They sacked Ryan Tannehill on four of those 15 dropbacks, including three by linebacker Terrell Suggs, and all four came while rushing just four linemen, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Entering the game the Ravens were tied for sixth on third-down defense, and they were even better against the Dolphins, allowing Miami to convert just 3 of 16 third downs (a season-best 19 percent).

Unexpected contribution: With only three healthy wide receivers, the Ravens needed someone to step up. No one believed it was going to be tight end Ed Dickson and wide receiver Tandon Doss. Both had more receiving yards Sunday than in the first four weeks combined. Dickson caught both passes thrown his way for 51 yards, which is 26 more total yards than he had in the first four games. Doss had three receptions for 58 yards, which was 11 more yards than he'd had.

Going to the extreme: Much of the talk was about the Ravens' commitment to the running game. But it shouldn't be overlooked that Baltimore's defense was committed to stopping the run. Baltimore held the Dolphins to 22 yards rushing, the fourth-fewest ever allowed in Ravens history and the fewest in seven years. The Dolphins basically gave up on trying to run the ball. Miami attempted two runs in the second half -- sound familiar, Ravens? -- and finished with 11 rush attempts. This is quite a turnaround for the Ravens, who gave up 203 yards to Buffalo a week ago.

Upon Further Review: Browns Week 5

October, 4, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Cleveland Browns' 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills:

Out for the season: Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer will miss the rest of the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the win over Buffalo. It’s a tough blow for Hoyer, who performed well in his two full starts playing for his hometown team. Injury is the risk of playing in the NFL, but it’s a tough part of the game.

[+] EnlargeBrian Hoyer
AP Photo/David RichardLosing quarterback Brian Hoyer forces the Browns to turn to Brandon Weeden again.
Back to Brandon: Browns coach Rob Chudzinski was asked on a conference call why he believed he could get from Brandon Weeden what he needs now that Hoyer is out. “Because we have no other choice,” Chudzinski said. He doesn’t. Hoyer was a pleasant surprise, but the Browns are back to where they started with their quarterbacks. Weeden is the starter and Jason Campbell the backup. If Weeden does not improve in a hurry, this season could turn long very fast.

Bryant OK: Desmond Bryant left the game and was taken to the Cleveland Clinic in an ambulance after experiencing shortness of breath. Chudzinski said Bryant also had an irregular heartbeat. “We took him to the hospital,” Chudzinski said. “He stayed overnight as a precaution. He’s fine; everything is back to normal. We’re not expecting any issues going forward.” Between Bryant having an irregular heartbeat and Barkevious Mingo bruising a lung, the Browns have had some scary-sounding injuries this season.

Above breakeven: Lost in the injury to their starting quarterback is the fact that the Browns have won three in a row, are over .500 and are in first place in the AFC North. Those are all figures that cause double-takes for a team that won 23 games the five seasons coming into this one. Just less than one-third into the season, the Browns can actually ponder the possibility of competing for the division. Pittsburgh is winless. Cincinnati is not playing close to expectations. And Baltimore has its struggles. The Browns can think big, but the key is their quarterback. Since they are back to square zero at that position, it’s a rather big question.