AFC North Power Rankings: Post Week 2

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Sep 14, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) celebrates a touchdown by running back Giovani Bernard (25) in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

1. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals land at the top of this list for both some obvious reasons, but also for some less acknowledged ones.  No doubt the Bengals win in Baltimore was huge as it would be for any team when winning a game in Baltimore.  The Bengals defense has been solid so far, but did struggle in the second half versus the Ravens once Vontaze Burfict left the game.  The Bengals were able to deal with his “absence”–as he was in and out of the game against the Falcons–better.  The offense had trouble finishing drives in the endzone throughout the Ravens game and in the first half against Atlanta.  But this defense was able to hold the Falcons’ aerial attack in check while finishing drives much better in the second half.  Andy Dalton has no turnovers so far and has been impressive in the face of pressure through two games; two huge steps for Dalton.  The biggest indictment against this team in the past was Dalton’s play under pressure of all kinds.  With this type of improvement, the sky is the limit for this team.

The Bengals have managed to win two big games to start 2014 and they’ve done so largely without Vontaze Burfict and Tyler Eifert, and after suffering several injuries against Atlanta which saw A.J. Green, starting right guard Kevin Zeitler, and starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth–amongst several others–all leave the game at some point; the Bengals have also been without wide receiver Marvin Jones for the entirety of the season.  Once healthy, this team will be even better.

The Bengals are atop this list now, but they aren’t light years ahead of the rest of these teams.  Their stock can only go up as some of their key components get healthy and play full games.  Regardless, this division should be a battle all year.  Each of these teams have displayed some real potential to date, but it’s likely only one or two teams make the playoffs in the end.  We’ll see going forward who will stand atop one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, the AFC North.