AFC North: New England Patroits

AFC North Power Rankings analysis

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
2:00
PM ET
With the division going winless in Week 8, here is how things stand in ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings:

Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

Cumulative vote: No. 2

Walker's vote: No. 2

Analysis: As expected, the Ravens moved up two places after the bye. The Steelers and New York Jets both lost on Sunday. The Ravens have won four of five games and are well rested. They have set themselves up well to make a second-half push, and it starts Sunday against the tough Miami Dolphins. I still expect the Ravens to be more dominant and efficient, considering their talent. But it's hard to nitpick too much when they're winning. Baltimore is deserving of this No. 2 post.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2)

Cumulative vote: No. 3

Walker's vote: No. 3

Analysis: A road loss to the New Orleans Saints knocked the Steelers from the No. 1 spot this week. Pittsburgh dropped two places to No. 3. All four members voted the same. The Steelers were outplayed by the Saints on both sides of the football. Still, Pittsburgh had a chance to win late until tight end Heath Miller fumbled the ball, eliminating a chance for the Steelers to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Steelers will play their third consecutive road game Monday against the Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-5)

Cumulative vote: No. 25

Walker's vote: No. 26

Analysis: Our Power Rankings panel missed the boat for the second week in a row by voting the Bengals higher than the Browns. This time only one place separated the two teams. I understand the decision. If you don't closely watch the Bengals stumble through games every week, like this AFC North blogger, you may feel on paper they should still be rated higher. But, simply put, the Browns are playing better football with less talent and they won the head-to-head meeting over Cincinnati. Surprisingly, AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky, who was right about the Bengals all along, gave Cincinnati the highest vote at No. 23 and the Browns the lowest vote at No. 28.

Cleveland Browns (2-5)

Cumulative vote: No. 26

Walker's vote: No. 25

Analysis: The Browns moved up a couple places to No. 26 this week, one spot lower than my personal vote. Cleveland still has to prove its win over the New Orleans Saints wasn't a fluke. The Browns will get a chance to gain even more respect this week against the New England Patriots, who are ESPN.com's No 1 team.

Casey Hampton decision looming

February, 23, 2010
2/23/10
11:00
AM ET
Hampton
Hampton

The clock is ticking for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh officially has two days left to decide if Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton will get the franchise tag for the 2010 season.

This is one of the biggest decisions Pittsburgh will make in the offseason. The Steelers could either guarantee Hampton a one-year deal with the franchise tag, work out a multi-year extension, or allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.

There is also the possibility of "tagging" Hampton with the goal of using the extra time to work out a long-term deal. The New England Patriots did that Monday by using their franchise tag on nose tackle Vince Wilfork.

Unless something dramatically changes in the next 48 hours, expect Pittsburgh also to use the franchise tag with Hampton before Thursday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. The Steelers cannot afford to lose their starting nose tackle without a long-term replacement currently on the roster.

Ravens halftime notes

January, 10, 2010
1/10/10
2:35
PM ET
The Baltimore Ravens lead the New England Patriots 24-7 at intermission.

Here are some halftime observations:

  • Baltimore is a notoriously slow-starting team. But this was the best start the Ravens had all season. An 83-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice ignited the team, and three early turnovers forced by the defense gave Baltimore a 24-0 lead. The Ravens are not a team that blows big leads. So it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the second half.
  • At this rate, consider this a coming-out party for Rice. In front of a national audience, the first-time Pro Bowler is putting his best foot forward in a huge playoff game. Rice is breaking the first tackle on most runs and has 109 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the first half.
  • Not challenging the muffed punt was a bad decision by Ravens coach John Harbaugh. New England's Kyle Arrington recovered the ball, but appeared to lose control as he was falling out of bounds. The play led to New England’s only touchdown of the first half.
  • Patriots quarterback Tom Brady does not look comfortable in the pocket. The Ravens are getting solid pressure against New England, and Brady is making rushed decisions, including his two interceptions. The Ravens have two sacks and two additional hits on the quarterback. They need to keep the pressure going to hold the lead in the second half.

AFC North playoff injury report

January, 8, 2010
1/08/10
5:30
PM ET
Here are the final injury reports for this weekend's playoff games in the AFC North:

New York Jets (9-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-6), Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

Jets

Questionable: LB David Harris (ankle), CB Donald Strickland (quadricep)

Probable: WR Jerricho Cotchery (hip), WR Braylon Edwards (elbow), DE Shaun Ellis (knee), LB Ryan Fowler (head), S James Ihedigbo (neck), RB Thomas Jones (knee), QB Mark Sanchez (knee), P Steve Weatherford (right hamstring)

Bengals

Out: DT Pat Sims (forearm)

Questionable: S Tom Nelson (knee)

Probable: S Chris Crocker (ankle), DE Robert Geathers (knee), RB Larry Johnson (knee), DT Tank Johnson (foot), WR Chad Ochocinco (knee), DT Domata Peko (knee), DT Shaun Smith (ankle)

Baltimore Ravens (9-7) at New England Patriots (10-6), Sunday at 1 p.m.

Ravens

Probable: QB Joe Flacco (hip), LB Tavares Gooden (groin), TE Todd Heap (neck), LB Jarret Johnson (back), LS Matt Katula (elbow), WR Derrick Mason (knee), DT Haloti Ngata (ankle), CB Marcus Paschal (back), DE Trevor Pryce (head), S Ed Reed (groin), G Marshal Yanda (knee), S Tom Zbikowski (neck)

Patriots

Questionable: G Dan Connolly (ankle)

Probable: QB Tom Brady (right shoulder, right finger, rib), WR Julian Edelman (forearm), DE Jarvis Green (knee), T Nick Kaczur (shoulder), WR Randy Moss (not injury related), CB Shawn Springs (knee), DE Ty Warren (ankle), TE Benjamin Watson (knee), DT Vince Wilfork (foot)

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