AFC North Bye Week preview: Bengals look for early help

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KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs talk on the field post game in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs talk on the field post game in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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Relax from the comfort of your couch on Sunday and hope for the Bengals to receive some early help from the Chiefs, Bears and Texans.

The Bye Week came at a perfect time for the Cincinnati Bengals (2-3). After firing offensive coordinator Ken Zampese–after an 0-2 start–the Bengals survived with Bill Lazor at the helm, going 2-1 to save their season.

Now the entire coaching staff can take a collective sigh of relief. Cincinnati is still in the hunt (sitting one game back in the AFC North) and can play for the top spot in the division with some help this Sunday.

Here’s a preview for the Bengals’ three division-rivals, and how to watch them on Sunday.

Chicago Bears (1-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (3-2)

Game Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: Fox 

Preview: The Mitchell Trubisky era had a rough beginning for the Bears last week on Monday Night Football. Making his NFL debut on primetime against the Vikings at Soldier Field, Trubisky threw a costly interception late in the fourth quarter that led to a game-winning field goal by Vikings kicker Kai Forbath.

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After completing less than 50 percent of his passes (12-for-25) in the loss, Trubisky’s first road test will be against a Ravens’ defense that ranks ninth against the pass and has forced 12 takeaways (second in the NFL).

The Ravens return home after a road win over a Raiders club that was without Derek Carr. Baltimore relied on the trustworthy right leg of Justin Tucker (three field goals) and Jimmy Smith’s 47-yard fumble return score to leave the Black Hole 30-17 winners.

Baltimore’s 27th-ranked offense has been stagnant all year. Much of the heat has revolved around quarterback Joe Flacco, who owns the second-worst passer rating in the NFL this season (71.0). Flacco’s thrown just one touchdown versus four picks over the last three games and will face a Chicago defense that ranks 8th against the pass, yielding just 205 yards per game through the air.

Unfortunately, if you’re in the Cincinnati area, the Bears-Ravens clash will not be available to you on Fox. The majority of western Ohio will see Green Bay visit Minnesota in the early afternoon spot on Fox.

Browns (0-5) @ Texans (2-3)

Game Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: CBS

The struggling Browns continue to shuffle through quarterbacks as the losses keep piling up. In a home loss to the Jets last week, rookie DeShone Kizer was pulled in favor of Kevin Hogan. Kizer’s thrown nine interceptions and has the NFL’s worst passer rating (49.5) and will watch from the sidelines when the team visits Houston this week.

Hue Jackson, now 1-20 as head coach for the Browns, has ruled Hogan the starter for this Sunday’s bout with the Texans. Hogan threw two touchdowns and completed 16-of-19 passes after Kizer was pulled against the Jets, but a costly third-quarter interception deep in his own territory allowed New York to take the lead for good in a three-point loss.

Fellow rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson is having much more success with his respectful club. The Clemson product has thrown 11 touchdowns over his last three games, but Houston dropped two of those contests, thanks to the comeback effort of Tom Brady and the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs.

You can likely stick a fork in the Browns, who have lost 33 of 37 since the start of the 2015 season.

The Browns-Texans clash in The Lone Star State can be seen on CBS for most Ohio residents.

Steelers (3-2) @ Chiefs (5-0)

Time: 4:25 p.m. (ET)

TV: CBS

A rematch of last season’s playoff game at Arrowhead (an 18-16 Steelers’ victory) is on tap for Sunday in the late afternoon slot.

Bengals’ faithful will be watching anxiously, as a Chiefs’ win would likely mean playing for first place next week when Cincinnati visits Heinz Field.

Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions in Pittsburgh’s 30-9 home loss to Jacksonville last Sunday but actually draws a favorable matchup against a Kansas City defense that ranks 25th against the pass.

If you’ve ever followed a Steelers season (and Big Ben) closely, a dreadful performance is usually followed by a dominating one. Suddenly, that gets everything back on track.

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Last October, the Steelers lost by 31 to the Eagles. They came home to defeat the Chiefs 43-14 one week later. Earlier this season, Pittsburgh dropped an overtime affair to the blundering Bears (Chicago’s only win so far). Then, they went on the road and dominated the Ravens.

Everything is clicking for the first-place Chiefs right now. The league’s only undefeated club is led by Alex Smith, who has the NFL’s highest passer rating. Meanwhile, rookie running back Kareem Hunt is averaging 155 yards from scrimmage per game and has his sights set on Pittsburgh’s 28th-ranked run defense.

Most of the country will see the matchup on CBS.

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