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Friday, November 14, 2008
Audibles: AFC North Week 11 preview


Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Baltimore Ravens (6-3) at New York Giants (8-1), 1 p.m.

Two of the NFL's hottest teams will square off when the Ravens travel to play the Giants.

Baltimore and New York have combined to win eight straight, so expect a high-quality game involving two clubs playing their best football of the season. Something also has to give when the NFL's top rushing offense (New York) meets the league's No. 1 run defense (Baltimore).

Surprisingly, three of New York's toughest games this year have come against the AFC North. The Cleveland Browns handed New York its only defeat last month, the Bengals forced overtime before losing 26-23, and the Giants' 21-14 win over the Steelers came down to the final quarter.

The Ravens, who are averaging 33.5 points in the past four games, are hoping to provide New York with another huge challenge. Baltimore is 1-3 this year against teams currently holding winning records and a win over the defending Super Bowl champs would go a long way to garnering more respect nationally.

Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-8), 1 p.m.

The Cincinnati Bengals had two weeks to prepare for this game, and they hope the extra time will help them pull off another upset Sunday at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. Cincinnati is coming off its first win of the season over the Jacksonville Jaguars two weeks ago.


Cincinnati has been deprived of the long ball since starting quarterback Carson Palmer was sidelined by an elbow injury. Current starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's longest completion this year has been for 22 yards, despite having weapons such as receivers Chad Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

The Eagles are probably better than their 5-4 record indicates. Playing in the NFC East is tough, with four teams jockeying for playoff position. Cincinnati also knows how hard it is to win against the NFC East. The Bengals are 0-2 this year, despite competitive games on the road against the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.

A win Sunday would be the team's first two-game winning streak since Dec. 23-30 of last year.

San Diego Chargers (4-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3), 4:15 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to avoid their third straight home loss with Sunday's game against the always-dangerous San Diego Chargers.

Surprisingly, Pittsburgh has lost its way at Heinz Field, dropping two home games in three weeks to the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts. A big reason for their struggles has been the inconsistent play of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has eight interceptions in his last three games.

The turnovers have put Pittsburgh's top-rated defense in bad spots and allowed teams to score more than 20 points in two of the past three games. Both were losses.

Chargers tailback LaDainian Tomlinson looks to be getting over his slow start and will be a key player against Pittsburgh's top-rated defense. The Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, and Tomlinson has hit the century mark eight times in his last 22 games.

Cleveland Browns (3-6) at Buffalo Bills (5-4), 8:30 p.m. Monday

Two of the coldest teams in the AFC face off on "Monday Night Football" when the Buffalo Bills host the Cleveland Browns.

These teams have combined for five straight losses, but it appears that Cleveland could have the toughest time bouncing back. The Browns became just the fifth team to blow second-half leads of at least 13 points in back-to-back games in losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos.

There has been talk inside and outside the locker room of players quitting during their most recent 34-30 loss to Denver after giving up 21 fourth-quarter points. Now Cleveland has little to play for as the back-to-back losses have all but eliminated the Browns from postseason contention.

Someone who does have a lot on the line is second-year quarterback Brady Quinn. He threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start against Denver and is solidifying his spot as Cleveland's quarterback of the present and future.