Friday, October 5, 2012
Final Word: AFC North
By Jamison Hensley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 5:
Return of the playmakers: The Steelers are hoping the return of two former NFL defensive players of the year will lead to the return of takeaways on defense. Outside linebacker James Harrison (knee injury) has forced 27 fumbles in the previous five seasons, and strong safety Troy Polamalu (calf) has intercepted 19 passes in his past 52 games. Turnovers will be a major storyline against the Eagles, whose 12 turnovers rank second in the league. With Harrison and Polamalu playing a combined one game this season, Pittsburgh has forced one interception and two fumbles. Since the start of 2010 season, the Eagles are 7-2 when Michael Vick doesn’t commit a turnover and 11-9 when he does, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Trent Richardson has only managed 26 carries in the Browns' past two games.
Time to stop the pass: The Ravens have been vulnerable against the pass this season, allowing quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards the past three games against them: Michael Vick (371 yards passing), Tom Brady (335) and Brandon Weeden (320). It will be time to sound the alarm if the Ravens' pass defense can't stop Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. He has thrown seven interceptions (only Tony Romo has more) and has fumbled four times (tied for second-most in the NFL). Cassel could be close to losing his job to Brady Quinn. In the playoffs two seasons ago, the Ravens held Cassel to 9-of-18 passing for 70 yards and three interceptions.
Give the ball to Richardson: Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson has received 26 total carries the past two games since busting out for 109 yards rushing. Richardson made sure the Cleveland coaching staff hasn't forgotten about him, telling reporters that he sees room to run against the Giants. And he's right. The Giants have given up an average of 118.3 yards rushing per game (21st in the NFL) and 4.5 yards per carry (25th). Despite the lack of touches, Richardson has made an impact this season. He's the third Browns rookie in the Super Bowl era with a rushing touchdown in three straight games, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Eric Metcalf (1989) and Kevin Mack (1985) also accomplished that feat. If Richardson scores again Sunday, he will become the first rookie in Browns history to rush for a touchdown in four straight games.
Bengals to air it out: It probably wouldn't be wise to test the Dolphins' run defense. Miami has allowed 2.4 yards per carry, which is easily the best in the NFL. No other defense is averaging less than 3 yards per carry. That should be fine for the Bengals, who have done a lot of damage through the air. Cincinnati is second in the NFL in passing yards per play this season (trailing the Panthers), and ranks third in most yards after catch. Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, the AFC's offensive player of the month, has scored a touchdown in three straight games.
Big Ben primed for big game: The Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger is among the NFL's hottest quarterbacks because he has taken advantage of defenses not blitzing him. When teams send four or fewer rushers, he has completed 74.3 percent of his passes and has recorded a 93.5 QBR, both of which rank first in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Roethlisberger also has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions when defenses don't blitz. Remember these numbers when Roethlisberger plays the Eagles, who have the league's highest rate of sending four or fewer rushers (80.3 percent) since Juan Castillo took over as defensive coordinator at the start of the 2011 season.