Final Word: AFC North

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
12:34
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 14:

Return of Roethlisberger: The Steelers should get a boost with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger starting Sunday after missing three games with rib and shoulder injuries. In nine games with Roethlisberger this season, the Steelers scored 21 offensive touchdowns, including 17 through the air from the franchise's all-time leading passer. In three games without him, Pittsburgh scored four offensive touchdowns. Roethlisberger is also playing at Heinz Field, where he has been exceptional this season. He has thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions at home for a 104.2 passer rating.

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco, Torrey Smith
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsJoe Flacco and Torrey Smith haven't been able to find much of a deep connection lately.
Off target: The Ravens aren't strong where the Redskins are vulnerable. Washington has allowed 10 completions longer than 40 yards, which is tied for the second-most allowed in the league. But the Ravens' Joe Flacco has struggled throwing the ball deep consistently this season. On passes beyond 10 yards downfield, his rate of overthrowing receivers (35 percent) is almost as high as his completion rate (39.3 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Information. In the Ravens’ past three games, Flacco has completed 2 of 14 attempts (14.3 percent) to Torrey Smith more than 10 yards downfield.

Keeping grounded: Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis got off to a slow start in his first season with the Bengals. In his first nine games, when Cincinnati went 4-5, he ran for 537 yards, an average of 59.7 yards per game. In his past three games, all victories, Green-Ellis has nearly doubled that average per game (116), gaining 348 yards rushing. He is one of three running backs to gain more than 100 yards in three consecutive games. If Green-Ellis can crack 100 yards against Dallas, he will become the first Cincinnati back in 44 years to do so in four straight games (Paul Robinson did it in 1968).

Not so ordinary: In the past five games, Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson is averaging 95.8 rushing yards per game. Cleveland is 3-2 during that stretch. His three games with over 100 yards rushing is tied for the most ever by a Browns rookie. Richardson also leads AFC rookies with 827 yards. He needs 116 yards Sunday against Kansas City to surpass Hall of Fame back (and one-time Richardson critic) Jim Brown for most rushing yards by a Browns rookie.

Bad neighbors: The home stadiums for the Ravens and Redskins are separated by 33 miles. This regional rivalry hasn't been that close. The Ravens have won three of the four meetings with the Redskins. Baltimore has allowed a total of 47 points in those four games (an average of 11.7) and hasn't given up more than 17 points in any meeting with Washington. The only time the Redskins defeated Baltimore was 2000, which was the year that the Ravens eventually won the Super Bowl.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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