Friday, October 2, 2009
AFC North: Final Word Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend’s games:
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Which Derek Anderson will show up for the Browns this Sunday?
Anderson’s back:Cleveland Browns (0-3) quarterback Derek Anderson will make his first start of the season, and it comes against a team he has a lot of history with. Anderson arguably had the best and worst games of his career against the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2007, Anderson’s breakout performance in Week 2 (328 yards, five touchdowns) gave Cleveland a 51-45 win over Cincinnati. The same year, in Week 16, Anderson threw four interceptions in a 19-14 loss to the Bengals that cost Cleveland a playoff berth. It will be interesting to see which "D.A." shows up against Cincinnati this time.
Letdown factor: Is Cincinnati facing a trap game against the Browns? The Bengals earned one of their biggest wins in recent memory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week to improve to 2-1. Now the Bengals travel to Cleveland to play one of the worst teams in the league. Division games are always tough, particularly on the road. So don’t be surprised if the Browns put up a fight. Cleveland and Cincinnati have split the season series in each of the past two years.
Looking to Rex: Despite leaving the Baltimore Ravens (3-0) this year to become head coach of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan likely did his old team a favor. Ryan provided an early-season blueprint of how to beat quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (2-1) during a Week 2, 16-9, win by the Jets. Ryan drew up a masterful scheme that pressured and confused Brady, which threw off the timing of New England’s offense. Brady finished with 216 passing yards, one interception and a 53.1 passer rating. There’s a good chance the Ravens will implement some of the wrinkles learned in Week 2 from their former defensive coordinator.
No picks in Pittsburgh: Lack of turnovers is a major reason why the Steelers are on a two-game losing streak. But if you look closer they are particularly struggling to get interceptions. Pittsburgh has 17 pass defenses but only one interception. The only Steeler with a pick this season is injured Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu (knee), who hasn’t played since the first half in Week 1. Teams are using a shorter, more accurate passing game against the Steelers to negate their pass rush and avoid committing turnovers.
Rookies in the trenches: Here's an interesting stat from the NFL league office in New York: This year's crop of rookie offensive linemen tied an NFL record for most starts (27) through the first three weeks of the season since the 1970 merger. Ravens tackle Michael Oher and Alex Mack of Cleveland contributed three starts apiece to that total. Look for rookie right tackle Andre Smith of the Bengals to add to that number once he returns from a broken bone in his foot.