The AFC North is a division of mystery to this point in the season. The Ravens are 3-1, but they have benefitted from injuries that have weakened their opponents. The Steelers are 2-2, but they have yet to play a solid 60-minute game and they have been overpowered in their two losses. The Browns have a strong defense but have struggled with consistency.
The Bengals are the most talented team, but they are 1-3 and their offense has completely fallen apart. Through 4 weeks, they rank 32nd – dead last – in yards per game.
Steelers v Ravens in Week 5 AFC North
The Steelers have an opportunity to get better, but they will probably be without quarterback Kenny Pickett (knee bone bruise) in their Week 5 game against the Ravens. While that means they will be shorthanded, it will give Pickett an opportunity to recover from his knee injury. In addition to sitting out against the Ravens, the Steelers have a bye the following week, so there is a chance he will be much stronger when he returns in Week 7 for Pittsburgh’s game against the Rams.
Veteran Mitchell Trubisky will likely stand in for Pickett, and head coach Mike Tomlin knows that his backup quarterback is not a miracle worker. Trubisky is athletic and strong, but he is not an accomplished passer in his 7th NFL season.
If the Steelers are going to find a way to beat the Ravens, it will be the result of a strong defensive effort, excellent blocking by the offensive line, a strong running attack and a few well-place passes by the backup quarterback.
Pickett contends he will be able to play against the Ravens, but Tomlin is not likely to risk the season for this game. It would be better for the long-term if the Steelers play it conservatively and allow Pickett a chance to heal by resting him.
The Browns rested quarterback Deshaun Watson in Week 4 against the Ravens and now have their bye week. Head coach Kevin Stefanski is counting on Watson returning to the lineup in Week 6 from a painful shoulder contusion when Cleveland hosts the undefeated 49ers.
Whether the Browns can beat the Niners is questionable, but a solid showing in a loss will increase the team’s confidence level for the rest of the season. Watson has shown that he can lead the team effectively when healthy, and the defense is clearly one of the best in the league. The Browns have a chance to become a playoff team this season.
The Ravens are talented and have been somewhat lucky to this point in the year because of opponents injuries. However, they have a talented team, and one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Lamar Jackson. If the offense can pick it up from this point in the season – they rank 13th in yards per game – the Ravens will have an excellent chance of winning the AFC North title.
The Baltimore defense ranks 3rd in yards allowed per game and are tied for 3rd in points allowed per game, but that unit may be pushed much harder once the Ravens are playing teams that are closer to full strength.
The Bengals are the biggest mystery since they were considered to be a primary contender to fight the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs for AFC superiority this season. Quarterback Joe Burrow has been battling a calf injury since the summer, and he has not been able to deliver the ball with the same velocity and accuracy that Bengals fans are used to seeing.
Perhaps they can turn things around, but time is starting to work against them. If they can’t get back to the .500 mark by Week 9 against the Bills, they may waste their opportunity to get back to the playoffs and a possible Super Bowl appearance.