Bengals News

AFC North struggles are keeping Bengals alive

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CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 8: Brandon LaFell #11 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs the ball upfield away from Shareece Wright #20 of the Buffalo Bills during the fourth quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Buffalo 20-16. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 8: Brandon LaFell #11 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs the ball upfield away from Shareece Wright #20 of the Buffalo Bills during the fourth quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Buffalo 20-16. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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The Bengals are alive and well in the AFC North thanks in large part to the rest of the North’s inability to take control.

An 0-3 start is usually more than enough to close the book on a team in the hotly contested AFC North. This year, however, things have taken an interesting turn. After the Bengals’ horrendous start, they suddenly find themselves just one game back from having the lead in the North. Given the struggles of the other teams in the Bengals’ division, it’s perfectly conceivable that this trend could continue. Here is the breakdown of the teams in the AFC North and their outlook going forward

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)

The Steelers have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL through five weeks. With a bevy of offensive firepower consisting of names such as Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Le’Veon Bell, this team looks like a juggernaut on paper. The defense was an issue last year but it has since been bolstered by additions such as rookie linebacker T.J. Watt. Although the roster is loaded, the production on the field has been less than stellar. After a shaky Week 1 in which the Steelers narrowly escaped the still-winless Cleveland Browns, they went on to go two and two losing to the lowly Bears and the up and down Jaguars.

Next Three Weeks

at Chiefs, Bengals, @ Lions

Outlook

One of the biggest issues for the Steelers thus far has been the play of Ben Roethlisberger. The two time Super Bowl champion has had some rough outings this year including one that caused Antonio Brown to throw a tantrum and another that resulted in five interceptions. If Big Ben doesn’t pick it up, the Steelers could easily lose their next three games which are against quality opponents.

Baltimore Ravens (3-2)

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The Ravens have arguably been the most Jekyll-and-Hyde team in the NFL this season. They opened the season with an outstanding defensive performance against Cincinnati. They followed it up with a win against Cleveland but then got blown out by the Jaguars and Steelers. In week five they defeated a Derek Carr-less Raiders team that has now dropped three straight.

Next Three Weeks

Bears, @ Vikings, Dolphins

Outlook

The Ravens have a stretch of easy schedule coming up. In fact, they should be favored in each of their next three games. That being said, they seem to falter against average teams since their defense and quarterback play seems to vary depending on the day. Even though the Ravens don’t look like a Super Bowl caliber team, they could be 6-2 based on their luck with the schedule. Additionally, the Bengals already lost a game to them. The next time the Bengals and Ravens battle will be in Week 17.

Cleveland Browns (0-5)

Cleveland has played some teams tough this year, including the Steelers week one and the Jets in Week 5. Rookie DeShone Kizer started the year at quarterback but has since been replaced by Kevin Hogan. The Browns have assembled a team with some decent young talent but without consistent quarterback play, things have been very similar to their 1-15 2016 campaign.

Next Three Weeks

@ Texans, Titans, Vikings

Outlook

Let’s just be honest about the Browns, they may not win a game. While they are technically only three games out of first they are not a legitimate threat. With Kizer getting benched and both the offense and defense struggling mightily, they will only be relevant if they can somehow pick a win off of one of the other divisional teams in the North.

Next: Hill Here to Stay

What It Means

Even though the Bengals got off to a slow start, their recent resurgence coupled with the rest of the AFC North’s failures have given the Men in Stripes new life. With two games left against the Steelers and one against the Ravens, the Bengals technically control their own destiny in the division. This is, of course, no guarantee of a divisional crown for the Bengals this year. But, things are looking a lot better than two weeks ago.

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