Bye-week success: Two AFC North teams are coming off byes, and statistically that bodes well for the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh is 2-0 in his career following the bye week, and Browns coach Eric Mangini is 3-1. Both clubs will have tough home games Sunday: the Ravens play the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland faces the New England Patriots.
Colt McCoy could be the starter for the rest of the season with a strong performance against New England.
Real McCoy? Against the Patriots, the Browns will start rookie quarterback Colt McCoy for the third straight game. This is McCoy's opportunity to solidify the starting job for the remainder of the season. McCoy's three opponents (New England, Pittsburgh, New Orleans Saints) have a combined record of 16-6. He has done a solid job splitting his first two starts but wouldn't leave any questions with an upset win over the Patriots (6-1), who have the NFL's best record. Veteran backup Seneca Wallace (ankle) could dress Sunday but isn't expected to play, according to Browns coach Eric Mangini.
Healthy Ravens: Baltimore is as healthy as it has been all season and in prime position to make a run in the second half of the season. Safety Tom Zbikowski (foot) is the only major injury coming off the bye. Star safety Ed Reed (hip) will play his second game since coming off the physically unable to perform list, and receiver Donte' Stallworth (foot) will make his regular-season debut against Miami. Staying healthy is an important component of remaining a Super Bowl contender. Perhaps luck is on Baltimore's side with injuries this year.
Prime-time Steelers: The NFL and national television networks can't get enough of the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Just a few games removed from his four-game suspension, Roethlisberger will lead Pittsburgh into the second of three consecutive prime-time games Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers played the Saints last Sunday in prime time and will play host to the Patriots next week in another night game. With the Patriots looming, the road contest against the 2-5 Bengals could be a trap game for Pittsburgh.
Few sacks in Cincy: There are two primary reasons the Bengals haven't matched last year's consistency on defense, when the team was ranked No. 4 in the NFL. Cincinnati is suffering through injuries in the secondary, and the Bengals can't establish a pass rush. Cincinnati is last in the league with only six sacks in seven games. There are 10 players with higher sack totals than Cincinnati. With opposing quarterbacks having so much time to throw, recent injuries in the secondary to cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Adam Jones and safeties Chinedum Ndukwe and Roy Williams aren't helping matters.