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Tuesday, October 19, 2010
AFC North Power Rankings analysis

By James Walker

Last week was historic in the AFC North, as two teams claimed the top spots in ESPN.com's Power Rankings. But an overtime loss by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday prevented the feat from happening again.

Here is how things shook out for the division:

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1)

Cumulative vote: No. 1

Walker's vote: No. 1

Analysis: Pittsburgh is ESPN.com's No. 1 team once again, and the vote was nearly unanimous. ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton will not budge in voting the New York Jets as the No. 1 team. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned and showed flashes of why he's one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. The schedule gets tougher for the Steelers, starting this week against the Miami Dolphins. So Roethlisberger will have to continue to make strides.

Baltimore Ravens (4-2)

Cumulative vote: No. 4

Walker's vote: No. 6

Analysis: Baltimore dropped two spots this week after a hard-fought overtime loss to the New England Patriots. The Ravens played well but couldn't finish, falling to 2-2 on the road this season. The AFC North blog received a lot of heat from Ravens fans after we labeled Pittsburgh the NFL's most dominant team at this point in the season. But road losses to New England and the Cincinnati Bengals prove the Ravens still have room to grow if they want to be considered the league's best team.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)

Cumulative vote: No. 20

Walker's vote: No. 23

Analysis: The Bengals moved up two spots during their bye week. Cincinnati has been rated all over the place during the first five weeks. Strangely, AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky ranked the Bengals the highest at No. 17. He called them a "fluke" at the beginning of the season and, although it's a long season, through five games the Bengals look closer to pretenders than contenders. Sunday's road game against the Atlanta Falcons (4-2), ESPN.com's No. 7 team, is the biggest of the season for Cincinnati.

Cleveland Browns (1-5)

Cumulative vote: No. 30

Walker's vote: No. 28

Analysis: It's happened several times where I ranked the Browns the highest on the panel, and this was another example. I see them up close and realize Cleveland is more competitive than its final scores indicate. Sunday's game against Pittsburgh was the only contest where the Browns didn't have a chance to win. The Steelers were too deep and too talented. But Cleveland rookie quarterback Colt McCoy showed promise, and the Browns could be a tough out as a spoiler if they get it together in the second half of the season.