Two AFC North teams are on a bye this week. The Steelers and Ravens are spending the week getting some important guys healthy, and they both hope to be as close to full strength when they play each other after their byes. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns do play a game this week (although I bet most of their fans wish they didn’t). They are, however playing in one of their last winnable games of the season.
Cleveland Browns (0-7) vs New York Jets (2-5): Sunday, October 30, 1:00 p.m. ET
At this point if you had a spinning wheel with Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, and Kevin Hogan on it, you’d have as good a chance of guessing who the Browns starting quarterback would be from week to week. Kessler has been officially ruled out of Sunday's game against the Jets, but McCown has been cleared to play in his first game since Week 2. The Jets have quite the pass rush though, so don’t rule out seeing Hogan.
Two weeks the Browns have been optimistic about Joe Haden returning to play, and for two weeks he hasn’t been able to go. He has dealt with two injuries during that time, but Haden and the Browns expect him to be out there covering Brandon Marshall. Unfortunately for Cleveland, he can’t stop the run every play as well.
The Browns have had chances to put one in the win column. They were up 20-0 against Baltimore, took Miami to overtime and were a two point conversion away from coming back against the Titans. They failed to pull out any of those games though. It isn’t like the Browns are THAT bad of a team. If you watch them, they are far better than last year’s team, but they just can’t make the plays they need to. Most of the blame falls on the Browns defense that has only held one team to under 28 points, and that was when the Ravens scored 25 unanswered points after falling into a 20-0 hole.
The Browns face the Jets who are 2-5 and represent one of the last teams under .500 Cleveland will face this season. The Bengals, Ravens and Chargers are the only three teams with current losing records left on their schedule. Division games are always weird, but both the Bengals and Ravens have impressive ground games. The Chargers are 3-4, but they have looked good for most of the season.
It is very possible the Browns won’t be able to pull off a single win this season, and that shouldn’t shock anyone. The Browns are headed in the right direction though. Hue Jackson has made something out of nothing on offense, so imagine what he can do if the Browns add some offensive talent. The Browns will be loaded with picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, and if this new regime can hit on a few picks, this could easily grow into a decent team next season.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) and Baltimore Ravens (3-4): bye
The NFL changed it’s rules for Injured Reserve this year so that each team could wait to designate the one player who would return off the list once they were ready and had been on IR for eight weeks. The key here is only one player can return so after that player is chosen, all other players placed on IR are done for the season. You used to need to choose which player would return at the time he was placed on the list, which ended up backfiring in many cases when recoveries took longer than expected. Or, if a more important player was hurt and added to the list later, and then couldn’t return as the designated player was already chosen.
The Ravens have decided that safety Matt Elam will be their player to return from IR. Elam hasn’t played since 2014. The former first round pick is still looking to make his mark on the Ravens. Several reports said he was having a strong training camp until he suffered a knee injury.
I don’t know what could keep Terrell Suggs from playing in a game against the Steelers, but an arm injury isn’t going to. Suggs hurt his arm sacking Eli Manning in Week 6. He missed last week, but now he is wearing an elbow brace and practicing. It still remains unclear if he will be able to go in Week 9. But, it is hard to imagine he will miss such a pivotal game to the Ravens’ season.
The Steelers didn’t do much in the offseason. But, after losing Heath Miller to retirement, went out and added Ladarius Green, the former Chargers tight end. Green was drafted with the expectation he’d be filling Antonio Gates’ shoes when he retired, but Gates is still playing, and Green found a team he can make an impact for.
There was much debate over what exactly was the matter with Green when he was put on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start the year. Whether it was headaches or an ankle injury, Green has finally started practicing with the Steelers. If Green can show the potential everyone thought he had in San Diego than the Steelers may have become that much scarier.
Also practicing again is offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert who has missed a few games. He will return to his starting role, but who he will be protecting is still a mystery.
Ben Roethlisberger is expected to miss two to six weeks. That means a return against the Ravens in Week 9 isn’t out of the question. Roethlisberger has been seen jogging and walking without a limp, but the team has been quiet on any official progress. The Steelers and Roethlisberger know how big this game will be though. Even if he isn’t 100 percent healthy, Roethlisberger and the Steelers will do whatever they can to make sure he is starting again as soon as possible.