Friday, November 11, 2011
Final Word: AFC North
By Jamison Hensley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:
Andy Dalton and the 6-2 Bengals host the 6-3 Steelers on Sunday.
Rough on rookies: The Pittsburgh Steelers look to continue their domination of rookie quarterbacks when they face the Bengals' Andy Dalton. Since Dick LeBeau returned as Steelers defense coordinator in 2004, rookie quarterbacks are 1-11 against the Steelers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The only rookie who has beaten Pittsburgh was Baltimore's Troy Smith in the 2007 regular-season finale, when the Steelers rested many of their starters. Pittsburgh has held rookies to a 62.8 passer rating with seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Ravens' Joe Flacco lost three times to the Steelers in his 2008 rookie season, and the Browns' Colt McCoy lost twice to Pittsburgh last year in his first NFL season.
Looking to avoid another trap: In John Harbaugh's first three seasons, the Ravens lost only once to a team with a losing record at the time. They've done it twice this season. After a season-opening rout of Pittsburgh, the Ravens fell flat in a loss at Tennessee. After a convincing Week 5 win over AFC South-leading Houston, Baltimore didn't show up in an upset loss at Jacksonville. Now, after another win over Pittsburgh, the Ravens insist they're not overlooking the 2-6 Seattle Seahawks. Harbaugh has referred to this disturbing trend as the Ravens' "Achilles' heel so far this season."
Getting run down: Over the past two weeks, running backs have gained 421 yards against the Browns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and scoring three touchdowns. In comparison, Cleveland's entire offense has produced just 41 more yards during that time. Three running backs have reached 115 yards against the Browns in the past two losses, which is a concern in facing 1-7 St. Louis. Rams running back Steven Jackson is going for his third straight 100-yard game, which would tie the second-longest streak of his career (according to ESPN Stats & Information). Jackson, 6-2 and 236 pounds, is "bigger and stronger" than anyone the Browns have faced this season, Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said.
Soaring from the start: Baltimore, which ranks second in scoring defense, is the only NFL team that has shut out every opponent this year on the opening drive. Baltimore has only allowed 13 points in the first quarter, which also leads the NFL. It would be a surprise to see the Ravens' shutout streak end in Seattle. The Seahawks have yet to score in the first quarter against three AFC North teams this season. The division has held Seattle to five points per game (one touchdown, three field goals).
Air attack: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for at least 300 yards in a franchise-record three straight games. He has 1,068 passing yards since Week 7, the most in the NFL during that span (according to ESPN Stats & Information). The Bengals' pass defense has been stingy, giving up eight touchdowns through the air, which is the third fewest in the league. The Bengals can take pride in the fact that they've allowed only one 300-yard passer this season. But that achievement is tarnished a bit when you learn that the quarterback who threw for 323 yards against Cincinnati was Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson.