Friday, September 30, 2011
Final Word: AFC North
By Jamison Hensley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:
Wake up, Browns: Cleveland's 2-1 start is impressive. It's even more impressive considering the Browns don't start games until the second quarter. The Browns have yet to put up a point in the first quarter this season, getting outscored 20-0 in the opening period. The offense takes its nod from quarterback Colt McCoy, who is 9-for-18 for 55 yards in the first quarter this season. Playing catch-up has to stop Sunday against Tennessee.
Colt McCoy and the Browns have been outscored 20-0 in the first quarter so far this season.
Keep Santonio Holmes out of the end zone: No one has hurt the Ravens more recently than wide receiver Santonio Holmes. He's scored a touchdown in seven straight games against Baltimore. His eight touchdowns in that stretch are the most by any player against the Ravens since 2007. If the Ravens want to slow down the Jets playmaker, safety Ed Reed should line up on Holmes' side of the field the entire game. It will be tough for any of Baltimore's cornerbacks to handle Holmes in single coverage.
Bring on the blitz: The Steelers have blitzed on about one-third of the opposition's pass plays, which is a little above the league average. Beating the Texans will require more of it. The key to disrupting Houston quarterback Matt Schaub is being aggressive against him. He is completing 58.3 percent of his throws when defenses rush five or more, which is significantly lower than his completion rate (71.4 percent) when defenses send four or fewer (according to ESPN Stats & Information). Getting consistent pressure has been a problem for the Steelers, who have a combined 3.5 sacks from James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
Make the gunslinger pay: The Bengals know first-hand how the Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick will take more risks than other quarterbacks when throwing passes in tight windows. Fitzpatrick was Cincinnati's fill-in starter in 2008 and threw for 316 yards against the Bengals last season. To slow down the NFL's highest-scoring offense (37.7 points per game), defenses have to be in position when Fitzgerald decides to gamble. The Bengals, though, have only one interception this season.
Defend home turf: The Ravens are 20-5 at home during the John Harbaugh era, which is the third-best mark since 2008. How dominant have the Ravens been at M&T Bank Stadium? During that time, the Ravens have more than doubled the point total of the opposition, 633-314. Baltimore is playing at home for the first time since the season opener, which was a 35-7 rout of the Steelers.