We take a look at how the AFC North is doing heading into Week 4. Two AFC North teams face off tonight and it should be an interesting outing.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday at 8:25 p.m. EST
Ravens' outlook heading into Thursday night
Thursday Night Football looks like it might be a battle of attrition as both teams will be without quite a few key starters. Baltimore will be without Chris Canty DE, Eugene Monroe T, Breshad Perriman, and their impressive TE Crockett Gillmore.
While Perriman has yet to make his debut, Baltimore's offense is in desperate need of his ability to take the top off the defenses, a la Torrey Smith last season. Gilmore's absence will be felt far more considering he has played fairly well so far this season with 10 receptions 153 yards and 2 touchdowns. That's a lot of production that will need to be replaced. Baltimore will have to hope rookie TE Maxx Williams will be able to replicate his production against a Steelers' defense that has struggled with covering tight ends this season. Monroe's injury will hurt an offensive line that has already struggled to get the run game going with Justin Forsett as well as protect Joe Flacco against a swarming front seven for the Steelers. Finally Canty's absence won't help against a Steeler's team that will almost certainly lean heavily on RB Le'veon Bell. Although, luckily for Baltimore, they still have Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan who have been clogging up the middle so far this season.
Ravens will need to stop Le'Veon Bell
What will likely decide this game for the Ravens is being able to keep Le'veon Bell from rolling downhill on the Ravens. Although recent history is on the Ravens side. Over the past 2 matchups Bell has accumulated 79 yards rushing and 86 yards receiving without any touch downs. On top of that Baltimore has only given up 3.4 yards per carry so far this season which is tied for the 4th best this season. If Baltimore can make Pittsburgh one dimensional they'll have a great chance to win their first game of the season.
Steelers list of players ruled out vs the Ravens grows
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be playing the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football, but will be without a key starter on both sides of the ball in Ben Roethisberger and Ryan Shazier.
Shazier thins out a line backing core that has struggled with covering tight ends so far this season. Baltimore will be without Gilmore who has been one of Baltimore's few offensive bright spots so far this season. Obviously without Ben the Steelers are a far different team than they have been in recent years. The only way they'll have success on offense is by turning back the clock with a heavy dose of Le'veon Bell and the running game. Michael Vick will have to be able to make quick decisions in the passing game which he hasn't exactly been known for during his NFL career. If Vick can manage the game it could go a long way for the Steelers coming away with the win.
Taking a look at the bigger picture in the Week 4 Steelers vs Ravens game
Everyone is talking about Ben Roethlisberger's sprained MCL heading into the game between the Steelers and Ravens Thursday night, but here are a few factors that could elevate the Steelers over the Ravens and leave them 0-4 for the first time in franchise history. Michael Vick may be able to keep the Steelers afloat while Ben heals up. That is as long as he has a graspe on the system and gets the ball out quickly to take advantage of a porous Ravens' pass defense. Looking Antonio Brown's way early and often could go a long way in achieving that. Also the Steelers' young defensive members have started contributing in a big way. Stephon Tuit and Bud Dupree have combined for 4.5 sacks so far this season and will be looking to get to Flacco early and often.
Cleveland Browns at San Diego Chargers Sunday at 4:05 p.m. EST
The Browns travel to San Diego for Week 4
While the Browns may or may not be internally frustrated by who's starting under center, they have to travel to San Diego to take on a Chargers team that is desperate to get back to .500 and stay in the race for the AFC West. The Chargers will be operating with a banged up offensive line as five of their offensive lineman appear on the injury report. Although, Cleveland has given up 4.9 yards per carry so far this season so even if the line is held together withe bubblegum and duct tape, the Chargers should be able to get their rookie RB, Melvin Gordon going.
The Browns should attempt to get Crowell and Johnson rolling as the Chargers also give up 4.9 rushing yards per carry. However in a game where both teams should be able to run the ball as they please the team that will be able to make plays through the air will likely prevail in this game. That edge obviously goes to the Chargers and Philip Rivers. The Browns are coming off a David Carr whipping through the air and it is hard to believe that Rivers won't be able to replicate a similar performance.
Report: Cleveland Browns Sign QB Austin Davis to 2-Year, $4.17 Million Extension
A team extending a third string quarterback is almost never even news worthy, but with the Browns it seems to capture everyone's attention. The signing of Davis brings up several questions.
First of all, why was this done during Ray Farmer's suspension? When Farmer's suspension was initially handed down many people laughed off a GM being suspended during the season. Yet the Browns have made two unusual moves given the fact their GM isn't around making them. First they traded away defensive lineman Billy Winn to the Colts for a conditional 2017 pick and now, they're extending a third string QB a new offer. It really makes you wonder why the organization is doing these things without Farmer around.
Another reason this is strange is most teams don't even carry a third string QB, except on their practice squad, and here the Browns are committing to Davis for as long as they have Manziel and McCown.
Finally, this could all be an overreaction and the Browns could simply be shoring up Davis as the probable backup for next year if they cut McCown. However, given the Browns history of handling QBs, any QB news is always worth an overreaction when it comes to Cleveland.