Heading into Week 2, the AFC North teams will be matched up against each other. The Ravens will be paying a visit to Cleveland, and the Steelers will host the Bengals in Pittsburgh. It is early in the season, but this week could have huge playoff implications. Except for the Browns. This week won’t have playoff implications for them.
Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-1): Sunday, September 18, 1:00 p.m. ET
After last season the Ravens’ nearly-healthy injury report seems like it would be impossible. A few players were held out of Wednesday’s practice, but they returned Thursday. The most notable of that list was Breshad Perriman, second year wide receiver. Perriman spent all of his rookie year dealing with injuries. Panic quickly ensued when Perriman missed practice Wednesday, but the Ravens had to have breathed a nice sigh of relief seeing him return to practice so quickly.
More concerning is the fact Elvis Dumervil and Za’Darius Smith missed practice all week. Dumervil said he doesn’t have a timetable for a return after having foot surgery during the offseason. That on its own wouldn’t hurt if Smith wasn’t missing practice as well. If Smith and Dumervil don’t play, it will force the Ravens to play the inexperienced combination of rookies, Matt Judon and Kamalei Correa.
Browns rest vets and battle through injuries
The Browns are mostly healthy, but unfortunately that doesn’t make them any better. Obviously that is excluding Robert Griffin III who will miss at least 9 weeks. Joe Thomas sat out of practice Thursday, but that isn’t a new thing. Thomas would often sit out practices last season to keep him fresh throughout the season. Thomas has played well enough following missing practice he has basically earned the right to skip them. This is similar to how Andrew Whitworth often sits out one practice a week, a veteran privilege.
Terrelle Pryor and John Greco have been practicing through their injuries. Pryor has been dealing with a shoulder injury, and Greco has been dealing with back issues. This is a positive sign for the Browns considering Pryor is one of the better receivers for the team and Greco one of the better linemen. It is, however, a negative that Pryor and Greco are so high up on the depth chart.
A problem that hasn’t plagued Baltimore in recent years is having too many weapons, but they have that problem now. If last week is any indication, the Ravens could be dealing with some frustrated receivers.
Most receivers got between one and three catches. Steve Smith Sr. was the leader with five catches, but he only amounted 19 yards. The only receiver to eclipse 40 yards was Mike Wallace and that was solely due to the long touchdown catch.
It is only one week and the first time many of these players are on the field together. But, despite winning, the Ravens had a major lack of big plays, and that simply can’t continue. It is possible Joe Flacco is worried about everyone getting their touches and not on who’s open for the play.
Odds are, playing the Browns defense could be just what the doctor called for to kick this offense into gear.
It didn’t take long for reports of a lack in confidence from the Browns organization in Griffin to surface. The plan of the two year deal for Griffin now becomes more clear with that. He was meant to battle to start this year, but if he didn’t then it would just result in a high draft pick next year. The main thing was to keep RGIII for year two so whatever rookie quarterback they select isn’t forced into action too soon like most Cleveland quarterback.
Griffin’s career as an NFL quarterback may be the strangest anyone has ever seen. After Washington gave up a king’s ransom for the second pick to take the Heisman trophy winner, he didn’t disappoint in year one, winning rookie of the year honors. But after suffering an ACL injury, and going from one head coach who didn’t like him to another, his time in Washington ended on a quietly sour note.
His time in Cleveland may end up worse. What was supposed to be his shot at redemption has ended abruptly with a shoulder injury, and it may have had an expiration date before it began. The only other question is where will he end up next?
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) vs Cincinnati Bengals (1-0): Sunday, September 18, 1:00 p.m. ET
Shazier has declared himself as good to go, but he only fully practiced once this week, on Friday, following his early exit from Monday night football with a knee injury. Shazier is one of the bigger x-factors in the rematch between the Bengals and Steelers. Of course the Bengals will be without their Pro Bowl linebacker, Vontaze Burfict, due to suspension, so if Shazier plays the Steelers will have quite the edge at that position.
Offensive lineman Cody Wallace has been ruled out for the matchup as has fullback Roosevelt Nix and cornerback Senquez Golson. The Bengals front line will be focused on getting to Ben Roethlisberger early and often. Geno Atkins will play a major role in the game, without Wallace, Atkins’ day will be that much easier.
All we have heard this week is how this is a different season and different teams, and while that is true, it also is very false. Williams sums up how most fans feel pretty well.
"Everybody knows the professional hatred we have for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Bengals have with us," Williams told ESPN. "Everybody's heard the Twitter fight and things of that nature that we've had in the offseason. Guess what? This Sunday, that comes to a head, and the cameras will be watching. It will be our will versus their will, and we will see who breaks first."
It is actually pretty refreshing for at least one player to admit this game means a little more. So many players are concerned with getting attention for all the wrong reasons that they become robots. They remember a few answers and change them slightly depending on the situation.
This could fan a fire that may not be out just yet.