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Friday, September 26, 2008
Audibles: AFC North Week 4 preview


Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Cleveland Browns (0-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-3), 1 p.m. ET

In the battle of winless teams from the state of Ohio, someone has to come out on top and someone will end up alone in the cellar of the AFC North. What's ironic is both of these teams have a lot of similarities in the way they have lost games this season.

Both teams are ranked at the bottom of the NFL in total offense, where Cincinnati is ranked No. 30 and Cleveland is dead last at No. 32. Poor quarterback play and a lack of a consistent running game also have hampered both squads offensively. The two defenses have been slightly better but not good enough to consistently win games.

For the Browns, Sunday could mark the final start for quarterback Derek Anderson, who is on the hot seat after playing poorly and garnering just a 43.5 quarterback rating in the first three games. Cleveland split first-team reps between Anderson and second-year backup Brady Quinn this week to have both signal-callers prepared to play.

For Cincinnati, it finally showed some life last week and enters this game a slightly more confident team after barely losing to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in overtime. Pro Bowl receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh had a breakout game with 12 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown.

Also, expect home-field advantage to play a factor in this game. The Browns have not won at Paul Brown Stadium since the final game of the 2003 season.

Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1), 8:30 p.m. ET Monday

An expected AFC contender hosts one of the early surprise teams in the conference this season when the Steelers meet the Ravens at Heinz Field in a prime-time matchup on Monday Night Football.

Expect a hard-hitting affair as both teams are trash-talking and fired up for this game. The winner will have sole possession of first place in the AFC North.

The Ravens are winning with phenomenal defense and boasts the NFL's top-rated unit in that category. They are only allowing 161.5 total yards per game so far this season.

Expect Baltimore to come hard after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has been sacked 12 times in three games and already has shoulder and hand ailments as a result. Last week he was sacked a season-high eight times in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Pittsburgh will be without starting tailback Willie Parker and stud nose tackle Casey Hampton. Rookie first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall will get his first start against a Ravens defense that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 straight games.

Last year these two teams split their season series, with each team winning at home.