Handicapping the AFC North

Pittsburgh and Baltimore are class of division; Cincinnati lagging behind

Originally Published: September 16, 2012
By Matt Williamson | ESPN.com
Ben RoethlisbergerJustin K. Aller/Getty ImagesBen Roethlisberger has played well so far this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The New York Jets started fast in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers quickly took the game over and were clearly the superior team on Sunday. The Cincinnati Bengals were embarrassed last Monday night in Baltimore and got past the Cleveland Browns in a close game, but made the Cleveland offense look light years better than it did in Week 1. And in what might have been the game of the week, Baltimore fell on the road to the Philadelphia Eagles on a short week of preparation in an evenly fought game. Three of these AFC North teams are now 1-1, with the Browns at 0-2.

So who are the contenders and pretenders in the AFC North this season? After two weeks, we now have a better idea.

Pittsburgh Steelers

In Week 1 at Denver, Pittsburgh was without two prominent starting defensive players and lost the right side of its offensive line by the middle of the second quarter. Ben Roethlisberger played an exceptional game, with the notable exception of a few throws, including Tracy Porter's pick-six. Also, the Steelers' defense, for whatever reason, didn't force Peyton Manning and his questionable arm into throwing difficult stick throws. Manning was brilliant, but he made easy throws to open receivers against off coverage. That all added up to a Steelers road loss on opening weekend.


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