AFC North: regular season

Reminder: NFL schedule release

April, 20, 2010
Who will the Pittsburgh Steelers play in September, considering quarterback Ben Roethlisberger likely will be suspended?

Will the Cleveland Browns open at home for an astounding 12th consecutive season?

Can the reigning AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals or the Baltimore Ravens get off to a fast start?

All of these questions and more will be addressed Tuesday when the NFL releases its 2010 regular-season schedule at 7 p.m. ET. Remember to check back with the AFC North blog later for analysis on all four division teams.

James Davis out for the year

October, 3, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

The running game of the Cleveland Browns suffered another blow Saturday when the team announced rookie tailback James Davis is out for the season. The Browns put Davis on injured reserve and didn’t specify the reason. But Davis has been dealing with a shoulder injury and has been in and out of the lineup since Week 1.

Davis led the Browns in rushing during an impressive preseason. The sixth-round pick from Clemson was the team’s biggest surprise in training camp but was never able to get going during the regular season.

Cleveland (0-3) signed Chris Jennings from its practice squad to replace Davis. Starting running back Jamal Lewis (hamstring) is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-1). So backup Jerome Harrison likely will be the featured back for the second straight week.

Morning take: It's game time!

September, 13, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

Here are the most interesting stories in the AFC North:
  • Here is a scouting report on the Baltimore Ravens, who will face the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday.
Morning take: The Ravens have a string of tough road games upcoming, so they need to take advantage of this relatively easy matchup at home.
  • The Brady Quinn era likely begins for the Cleveland Browns against the Minnesota Vikings.
Morning take: Although Browns coach Eric Mangini hasn’t made a formal announcement, this has been the worst-kept secret in sports this week. Quinn should be Cleveland’s third Week 1 quarterback in the past three years.
  • An interesting matchup to watch in Cincinnati will be Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth against Denver Broncos outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil.
Morning take: This is a great battle involving two young players. Dumervil is relentless and often gives bigger tackles problems. Whitworth has to be on his game.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers safety Tyrone Carter has huge shoes to fill playing for injured Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu (knee) the next several weeks.
Morning take: Who’s better: Ed Reed’s backup or Troy Polamalu’s backup?

Just kidding, everyone. Enjoy the games and check the AFC North blog Sunday for constant updates.

Can Cleveland win a home opener?

September, 9, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

Here is an amazing stat: The Cleveland Browns are the only NFL team to open their season at home every year since 1999.

Here is another amazing stat: Cleveland is 1-9 in those games.
Slow Out Of The Gate
The Cleveland Browns are 1-9 in their past 10 home openers:
Year Opp. Result Starting QB
2008 Dallas L, 28-10 Derek Anderson
2007 Pittsburgh L, 34-7 Charlie Frye
2006 New Orleans L, 19-14 Frye
2005 Cincinnati L, 27-13 Trent Dilfer
2004 Baltimore W, 20-3 Jeff Garcia
2003 Indianapolis L, 9-6 Kelly Holcomb
2002 Kansas City L, 40-39 Holcomb
2001 Seattle L, 9-6 Tim Couch
2000 Jacksonville L, 27-7 Couch
1999 Pittsburgh L, 43-0 Ty Detmer
Source: ESPN Stats and Information

For the 11th consecutive season, the Dawgpound will host a season opener Sunday when the Browns face Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings.

Cleveland’s had the benefit of being granted a decade’s worth of home openers by the NFL but has done very little with it. The team’s only win came in 2004 against the Baltimore Ravens (20-3).

The Browns have been outscored 256-105 in their last 10 openers. And according to ESPN Stats & Information, Cleveland hasn’t scored one first-quarter touchdown in Week 1 since its return to the league in 1999.

This is also a major reason the Browns have just one playoff appearance in that same span. Cleveland rarely gets off to a fast start, where a season-opening loss usually contributes to an uphill climb the rest of the year.

The Browns are hoping for better success this week under new head coach Eric Mangini. He had some first-year magic with the New York Jets in leading them to the playoffs as a rookie coach in 2006. But few expect similar results in Cleveland.

Mangini still hasn’t named his starting quarterback but has an idea of who it’s going to be. Most expect it to be Brady Quinn, who would be the eighth Week 1 starting quarterback in the past 11 seasons. That list also includes Ty Detmer, Tim Couch, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Dilfer and Charlie Frye.

Can Mangini and (possibly) Quinn buck the trend?

Posted by’s James Walker

In an effort to create a competitive advantage, Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini isn’t revealing who his starting quarterback will be this week.

With two drop-back passers, I wonder if the Minnesota Vikings are really all that concerned.

Most people expect Brady Quinn to be the starter. And although the Vikings, who have a very good defense, will now spend a portion of practice preparing for Derek Anderson, an educated guess is they’re studying the same film everyone else saw when Quinn created separation in this quarterback derby during the preseason.

But with the regular season set to begin, here is the biggest question: At what point does Mangini’s ultra-secretive approach hurt the Browns more than the opponent?

It’s one thing for the media and fans not to know Cleveland’s starting quarterback. But as of Monday, neither does Quinn, Anderson or the rest of the players.

According to Mangini, he will tell Quinn or Anderson who starts in the “near future.” Cleveland takes the field in less than six days. The clock is ticking.

For a safe, conservative coach like Mangini, this is a very high-risk, high-reward move.

If the Browns beat Minnesota Sunday, Mangini will be praised. But if the Browns lay an egg and the starting quarterback struggles in their season debut, expect a lot of blame to rest on the way Mangini handled his quarterbacks in Week 1.

Mangini addresses Jamal Lewis rumors

September, 5, 2009

Posted by's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- Although Eric Mangini had nothing new to offer about his quarterback situation Saturday, the Browns head coach was able to publicly put an end to the speculation surrounding veteran running back Jamal Lewis.

There were rumors and reports circulating over the past 24 hours that Lewis would be released by the Browns. He turned 30 this summer and is coming off ankle surgery.

But based on the team’s roster and an offseason bonus paid to Lewis, cutting the team’s leading rusher in 2008 didn’t add up. Therefore, when the 6 p.m. cut deadline passed, Lewis was still on the roster as the Cleveland’s starting tailback entering the regular season.

"One thing that happens during any transitional time in the league is there’s always speculation," Mangini said. "I think Jamal has a lot to contribute, and I’m looking forward to seeing him as we go through the season."

Mangini added that Lewis' work ethic and ability to mentor younger running backs are two major pluses. Lewis has helped tutor rookie tailback James Davis, who put together a great preseason and is expected to team with Lewis as Cleveland’s primary rushers this year.

AFC North excelled in preseason

September, 5, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

If the preseason is any indication, the AFC North should have a great regular season in 2009.

The final NFL statistics are tabulated for the preseason, and the AFC North is all over the leader boards.

Here are some of the standouts in the division:
  • The Baltimore Ravens were one of just three undefeated teams in the preseason with a 4-0 record.
  • The Ravens were led by their stellar defense, as the starters and reserves held opponents to a league-best 236.8 yards per game.
  • The defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers allowed a league-low 37 total points this preseason.
  • Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry led the NFL in preseason touchdowns with four. Henry caught one touchdown pass in each preseason game.
  • The Bengals also led the NFL with 175 rushing yards per game. That number was boosted this week with a stellar 296-yard rushing performance against the Indianapolis Colts.
  • Cleveland Browns rookie tailback James Davis had the league's longest run from scrimmage in the preseason with an 81-yard touchdown against the Detroit Lions.