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Friday, October 1, 2010
Final Word: AFC North

By James Walker

» NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

Anquan Boldin
The Steelers will probably focus on stopping hot Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin.
Baltimore Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin is off to a fast start. He's fourth in the AFC in receptions (20) and yards (280) after torching the Cleveland Browns last week for 142 yards and three touchdowns. But do not expect the Pittsburgh Steelers to allow Boldin to beat them. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau specializes in taking away an opponent's best weapon. Boldin should see plenty of double-teams and extra coverage rolled in his direction. Therefore, other receivers such as Derrick Mason or T.J. Houshmandzadeh will have to step up for Baltimore to have offensive success.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is 1-4 in his career against the Steelers. A major reason is because of the pressure Pittsburgh brings. According to ESPN's Stats and Information, Flacco has been sacked on 12 percent of his dropbacks against the Steelers, compared to only 5.5 percent against the rest of the NFL. Expect Pittsburgh to continue bringing the heat. The Cincinnati Bengals also proved in Week 2 that with pressure, Flacco is prone to mistakes.

Keep a close eye on Steelers first-round pick Maurkice Pouncey. The rookie center is facing the biggest test of his career in what is his first taste of this nasty rivalry. Pouncey, who has been stellar so far, will get a steady dose of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, veteran Kelly Gregg and rookie Terrence Cody, whom Pouncey faced in college in the SEC. If Pouncey passes this test Sunday, he is more than prepared for the rest of the NFL.

Browns running back Peyton Hillis will try to run over another AFC North defense when he faces Cincinnati. Hillis is coming off a career-high 144 yards and a touchdown against Baltimore. The Bengals are No. 13 against the run and allow 4.5 yards per carry. If the Browns want to pull off the upset at home, Hillis will need another big game to control the tempo.

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is getting plenty of heat for their struggling offense. But Cincinnati's running game isn't producing, either. The Bengals are No. 27 in the NFL with 3.2 yards per carry. So far the running game hasn't resembled last season's power attack led by Cedric Benson, who is averaging 3.1 yards per attempt. Many of Cincinnati's inside runs have been stuffed early in drives, which sets up long down and distances for the offense.