AFC North: blackouts

Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North:
  • The Baltimore Ravens acknowledge they're still looking up to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Morning take: These franchises are very close, but the Steelers usually win the big games. Quarterback play currently is the biggest difference.
  • Speaking of quarterbacks, is Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers on pace for the Hall of Fame?
Morning take: I don't like to look too far ahead. But with two Super Bowl rings and four AFC Championship Games, Roethlisberger is building a tremendous résumé. Can he advance to his third Super Bowl on Sunday?
Morning take: New head coach Pat Shurmur should do what he's most comfortable with, and that's likely switching to a 4-3 defense. The Browns spent all last season running systems the coach and front office didn't agree with, and it’s time to get on the same page.
Morning take: I think the Bengals as an organization need to be really careful. Fan confidence is pretty low and people are showing it via blackouts and lower television ratings.

Half of AFC North face blackouts

September, 3, 2009
9/03/09
2:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker


The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are facing the prospect of blackouts, as both franchises are struggling to sell out games during the regular season.

The combination of a poor on-the-field product and a struggling economy has left the Bengals and Browns scratching their heads as they look for ways to fill their respective stadiums. Creative marketing plans and new ticket packages by both teams have not been enough, as the Midwest region and particularly the state of Ohio have been among the hardest-hit areas of the country.

It will be interesting to see how each team handles this potential problem and whether it lasts beyond this year.

Cleveland may opt to avoid the public relations hit in the short-term by selling its game tickets on the cheap and buying up the remaining allotment, which is what's happened in the preseason. The Bengals, on the other hand, most likely will accept the blackout.

It is clear that sports fans are being much more thoughtful this year about how they spend their money. In the AFC North, the pressure is on the Browns and Bengals to field successful teams that their fans can believe in.

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