Browns: Cleveland’s Resurgence Makes AFC North the Strongest
The Browns hadn’t won a game against a division foe since October of 2015. Yet with Sunday’s overtime win against the Ravens and a tie against the Steelers in Week 1, Cleveland suddenly sits at 2-2-1 and is a contender in the division.
“We are right there in the mix,” Browns offensive lineman Joel Bitonio said. “If you win your division, you go to the playoffs. That is what we are working on as our first goal right now.”
The AFC North crown is very much up the air. The Bengals sit atop the division at 4-1, but the Ravens (3-2) are just behind, and the Steelers (2-2-1) and Browns are not far off the pace. In years past, playing the Browns twice a year almost always meant two wins on the schedule. But that’s not the case anymore.
The AFC North is the NFL’s only division that doesn’t have a team with a losing record. Only one other division – the AFC West – has as many total wins (11), and that’s mostly because of the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
Bengals: Comeback Wins Continue Thanks to Defensive Touchdowns
The Bengals continue to pull off comeback wins thanks to an opportunistic defense.
Cincinnati trailed the Miami Dolphins, 17-0, at home Sunday before their defense scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns. One flukey play (shown below) tied the game at 17 and the second, a 19-yard fumble return, essentially ended it with a 27-17 final score.
Cincinnati’s Week 1 win over the Indianapolis Colts came in large part because of a long fumble return for a touchdown when the Colts were driving for a potential game-winning score. The Bengals trailed by 13 points midway through the third quarter of that game. Last week in Atlanta, the Bengals were behind by five points in the final minutes before converting on fourth down twice and hitting A.J. Green for a game-winning 13-yard touchdown with seven seconds left.
The Bengals were also boosted this week by the return of running back Joe Mixon (knee), who ran for 93 yards and caught an 18-yard touchdown.
Steelers: Offense Rebounds in a Big Way
After mustering just 47 yards and being shut out in the second half against the Ravens, the Steelers’ offense got back on track against the Falcons’ struggling defense in a 41-17 win at Heinz Field.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdowns, including two to wide receiver Antonio Brown, who had six catches for 101 yards. Running back James Conner ran for 110 yards and two scores.
However, there’s just as much buzz in Pittsburgh about the defensive performance, which could mean more about the Steelers’ long-term outlook considering it’s been their biggest weakness this season. Linebacker T.J. Watt had three sacks, as the Steelers stifled Atlanta’s high-powered offense.