NFL ? AFC North Division review
Four teams for two scenarios: the leaders Baltimore and Pittsburgh are 5-2 while Cleveland and Cincinnati had the same numbers, but flipped around for a 2-5 that relegates them to the bottom.
The 2009 regular season wasn’t outstanding for the Baltimore Ravens (9-7), but it was good enough qualify for the AFC Wild Card Round, where they played New England and advanced to the next round with a 33-14 win. In the Divisional Round Indianapolis was too much for them, and ended their season with a 3-20 defeat. Quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice and wide receiver Derrick Mason where the high points of the team, completing over: 3,000 passing yards, 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards respectively. Running back Willis Mc Gahee also performed at a high level, tying the 14 touchdown franchise record from Michael Jackson in and Ray Lewis in 2003.
With Week 8 completed, some of the players that were distinguished among their teammates last season are averaging numbers that insinuate that those stats will be repeated. For example Flacco has 1651 passing yards already and Rice has 523 rushing yards so far. If the Ravens want to improve last year’s performance they are going to need to reach the Divisional Round and win their way into the AFC Championship Round. They will be returning to action this coming Sunday against Miami –winless at home- after Bye Week, to hopefully continue with the good pace that has them as the division leaders.
The 2009 season was extremely positive for the Cincinnati Bengals, that not only recovered from a deceiving 2008 that ended with a 4-11 record, but also because they reached 10 victories (10-6), something that didn’t happen since 2005, and that served them to clinched division. Unfortunately all things come to an end, and theirs came in the AFC Wild Card Round against N.Y. Jets with a 24-14 defeat. On the individual highlights, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco ended one touchdown behind the franchise record that Carl Pickens holds with 63. And he also extended the franchise records for receptions and receiving yards to 684 and 9,952 respectively. While running back Cedric Benson rushed 1,251 yards, becoming the fourth player in the Bengals’ history to rush for 1,200+ yards.
This year Cincinnati is far from last year’s stats and occupies the last place of the Division with five games lost, and just two wins. The situation is not promissory for the Bengals. The team has a 4 lost-game strike that could soon be a 5 consecutive defeat situation as they play the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) on Monday Night Football. Quarterback Carson Palmer’s 1855 passing yards for 12 touchdowns have not been enough to improve the team’s performance. His best ally so far has been veteran wide receiver Terrell Owens with 629 receiving yards for 5 touchdowns, but they are going to need more participation from the rest of team to change this present.
What was close to become a disastrous season for the Cleveland Browns had an unexpected turn in the last four games of the year, as the team was able to win all four of them to improve the 1-11 record with which they arrived to December of 2009. It is also relevant to mention that some franchise records were set throughout the season: running back Jerome Harrison’s 286 rushing yards in Week 15 against the Browns surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown’s 237 –he did it twice: 1957 and 1961- for the most rushing yards in a single game. Also wide receiver Mohammed Massaquoi’s 18.4 yards per catch average that surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Paul Warfield’s 17.7 from 1964. And not only franchise records where achieved, also in NFL history like: kick returner and wide receiver Joshua Cribbs’ 2,510 combined yards, becoming fifth all-time in a single season to do so.
The 2010 early season was heading in the same direction as the previous, after Week 6 the Browns were 1-5. But then on Week 7 they were able to beat New Orleans 30-17 and leave to Bye Week with the boost that defeating the defending champions represent. Their next game is against the New England Patriots, and they should come in fresh from their break to start changing things around, and improve last year’s 5-11 record. Both quarterbacks’, Seneca Wallace’s and Jake Delhomme, ankle injuries have caused instability in the team’s formation, where even rookie Colt McCoy has seen action this season. That’s three QB up to now. Running back Peyton Hillis is going through his best season in his 3 year NFL career, with 460 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Pittsburg Steelers had an acceptable 2009 season that ended 9-7. The 3 win strike with which they finished the year helped them to tie Baltimore Ravens’ record, but unluckily for them the +130 point differential over their +44 gave the Ravens the ticket to the playoffs. Still the offense had a distinguished year: with 4,108 yards Ben Roethlisberger was the first quarterback in franchise history to pass 4,000 yards in a season. Running back Rashard Mendenhall’s 1,108 rushing yards turned him into the seventh player in the franchise to rush for 1,000 yards. And wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward surpassed the 1,000 yards received each.
The fight for a playoff ticket between Steelers and Ravens is looking as intense this year as it did the previous one. Once again both teams are tied 5-2, but this time the stats favor Pittsburgh. Despite Roethlisberger’s 754 passing yards being far from the 4,108 from last year, this hasn’t been an inconvenient to win games. Rashard Mendenhall has kept his pace up from the previous season, and with 603 rushing yards after Week 8 is closer to the 1108 from 2009. Their next game is on Monday Night against division rivals Cincinnati Bengals, and they will try to recover from the 20-10 defeat suffered this past weekend against the defending champions New Orleans Saints.
Andrew Hill is a high-ranking sports writer, currently writing reviews on the NFL for the sports betting industry. Feel free to reprint this article in its entirety on your site, making sure to leave all links in place and do not modify any of the content.