AFC North: Payton Manning
- Here is another column pitting Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning against Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
The red-hot Baltimore Ravens are the only AFC North team to get a victory in Week 10. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns suffered heartbreaking losses, while the Cincinnati Bengals had a bye.
With that in mind, here are seven observations from last week's games:
|Joel Auerbach/US Presswire|
|Quarterback Joe Flacco continued his impressive rookie campaign by leading the Ravens to a 41-13 thumping of Houston.|
- Here is something that hasn't been mentioned this season: The Baltimore Ravens are a very well-conditioned football team. For a squad that's never had a bye week, the Ravens do not appear close to wearing down as evident by Sunday's 41-13 victory over the Houston Texans. In two November wins against Houston and the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore won the fourth quarter by an amazing score of 38-0. What is even more impressive is both games were on the road.
- It's clear that the Ravens' coaching staff is no longer treating Joe Flacco like a rookie quarterback. Flacco took chances downfield early against Houston. He threw deep on first-and-10, second-and-short and third-and-long--usually off play action. Sometimes it worked, such as his 43-yard touchdown to Yamon Figurs, and sometimes it didn't. But Baltimore is sending a message to opponents that it's not afraid to stretch the field with Flacco if teams load the box.
- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has eight interceptions in his last three games. Roethlisberger looks fine in stretches -- as evident by his 71.4 completion percentage Sunday -- but tends to get impatient at times and tries to force the ball into tight spots. He threw two big interceptions right before halftime and at the end of the game that led to touchdowns in a 24-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. In both cases, the Steelers were ahead and didn't need Roethlisberger to force the issue.
- According to our tremendous team at ESPN Stats and Analysis, Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor was the cornerback of choice for Colts quarterback Payton Manning. When throwing at Taylor, Manning was 6 of 11 for 118 yards, a touchdown and a 122.6 passer rating. Taylor tipped two balls that were still completed, including a 65-yard touchdown throw to Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.
- The most impressive thing we saw from Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Brady Quinn this past Thursday was his pocket presence against Denver. Quinn dropped back and threw the football 35 times and wasn't sacked once, because he has great feel for the rush and mobility inside the pocket. This allows Quinn to hold onto the ball a split second longer for receivers to get open, which happened several times against Denver last week. It's also an element that flat-footed quarterback Derek Anderson didn't have. Anderson's lack of mobility forced him to make very quick decision that sometimes led to poor throws and interceptions.
- The Browns' offense looked more crisp when tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. is the primary target instead of receiver Braylon Edwards. Edwards was by far Anderson's favorite receiver, but he kept letting Anderson down with drop after drop and that, in part, eventually spelled doom for the former starting quarterback. Quinn, on the other hand, prefers to check down to his tight ends and running backs, and it led to 10 catches, for 111 yards and two touchdowns for Winslow, who's hands are far more reliable.
- The Cincinnati Bengals hope quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to show progress after the bye week. Fitzpatrick is coming off his best game of the season Nov. 2 in a 21-19 victory over the Jaguars. Cincinnati is finally starting to tailor the offense to Fitzpatrick's strengths, which is completing shorter passes and making plays with his feet.