The entire AFC North is on the road this week, but the Baltimore Ravens easily have the farthest to travel. They are set to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, but they will do so without their top run stuffer.
Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1): Sunday, September 24th, 9:30 a.m. EST
Carr proves to be valuable offseason acquisition
Brandon Carr seemed like a weird offseason move, especially when the Ravens then spent a first round selection on Marlon Humphrey. Still, he has four interceptions after two weeks. The Ravens have forced five turnovers each week so far, and Carr has been a huge part of that. He has shown that when teams try and test him that he can make them pay.
The Ravens' defense is well constructed. The secondary is a no-fly zone with Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson and Jimmy Smith also back there, and they play off of what the others are doing. Carr understands he can take some extra chances because he has Weddle behind him. It also helps that the Ravens pass rush has done so well forcing quarterbacks into throws they'd probably want back.
If Carr keeps this up, the 31-year old will have proven he was worth the massive 4-year $23.5 million contract he got this offseason.
Williams out for Sunday's game; Injury report
The Ravens take a major hit in the injury department this week as Brandon Williams won't be playing this week. He was forced out of the game last week with a foot injury, and it doesn't look like it has healed up yet.
This is a huge loss considering the Ravens are taking on the Jaguars and their rookie running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette already has 40 attempts over two games, and the Jaguars plan seems simple. They will run Fournette until the other team stops him or the score dictates otherwise.
Against the Texans, Fournette ran 26 times for 100 yards and ate away most of the clock, never giving Houston a chance to adjust. The Ravens have a similarly bad offense, and the Jaguars defense is one of the best in the NFL right now.
Williams would've been a big help defensively, but now the pressure may rest on the offense's shoulders to get out to an early lead.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) at Chicago Bears (0-2): Sunday, September 24th, 1:00 p.m. EST
Steelers relying on dime defense
The days of the Steelers bringing pressure on third downs seems to be over. The data shows that on almost all third down or fourth down plays the Steelers are opting to go with a dime defense. They are electing to sit back in coverage and force the other team to dissect the coverage.
Considering the Steelers opponents early in the season it isn't a surprise that this has found success, but the bigger question comes whether this will work against the top tier offenses in the NFL. In the last AFC North post, I noted the Steelers hardly play any offenses of that caliber, but they will face off against the Patriots in Week 15, which may be the most important test for this defense.
Sitting back may work against some of the more inexperienced quarterbacks, but if this strategy doesn't work against Tom Brady, then it could spell trouble for Pittsburgh in the playoffs.
Tuitt returns to practice
This is a major relief for the Steelers. Right after giving one of their most important defensive linemen a deserved extension, it looked like he would miss the season after suffering a torn bicep injury. It turns out it wasn't that serious, and Stephon Tuitt only ended up missing one game against the Vikings who were without Sam Bradford.
Tuitt provides more depth up front to a defensive line that was doing fine without him. It just makes the Steelers' front seven even better.
Cleveland Browns (0-2) at Indianapolis Colts (0-2): Sunday, September 24th, 1:00 p.m. EST
Collins out for Sunday's game; Injury report
Jamie Collins, who suffered a concussion against the Ravens, has been ruled out of the Browns game against the Colts. This is a big loss considering the Browns will likely be without Myles Garrett as well this week (he is listed as doubtful). The Browns defense will have a tall task of getting to Jacoby Brissett who is a pretty mobile quarterback.
The Browns will also likely be without Sammie Coates who is listed as doubtful as well. This opens the door for Rashad Higgins to play a big role like he did last week when he caught seven passes against the Ravens. It is a major blow to the Browns receiving depth as they were already without Corey Coleman who broke his hand and was placed on Injured Reserve. Coleman is a candidate to return after eight weeks though.
"We talked, and he said he wants to give me the ball and stuff like that," Crowell said. "But we really didn't go into big depth about it. I just told him I feel like I'm a big-time player and I can make some plays with the team. I just kept it at that."
It is quite puzzling that the Browns haven't relied on the running game more this season. They have been starting DeShone Kizer, and the best way to help out a rookie quarterback is a good running game. The Browns spent the offseason improving their offensive line, and Crowell proved last season with a bad one that he could be productive. He averaged 3.7 yards per carry against the Ravens, but he only got 10 carries. The fact that the Browns threw the ball 42 times that game hurts even more. Cleveland quarterbacks turned the ball over five times costing the team any chance they had.
Crowell should start to get the ball more consistently, and the Colts defense is the perfect place to get going. Crowell should be getting the ball quite a bit after the Browns' quarterbacks struggled last week, and they are down two receivers.