It is here. Week 1 of the NFL season is underway and we have looked plenty at what to expect from the Bengals this week, but what about the rest of the AFC North? The Browns will likely be without the first overall pick for at least this week. The Ravens seem to be getting healthy just in time to take on the Bengals. The Steelers’ offensive line expects Le’Veon Bell to be fully ready to go against the Browns after his summer-long hold out. Here’s what to expect from the AFC North this week as the Bengals take on the Ravens and the Steelers take on the Browns.
Two teams in the AFC North will come out of Week 1 with losses... Unless there’s a tie. Please don’t let there be a tie.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, September 10, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Ravens had quite the scare during the offseason when Joe Flacco suffered a back injury. It was expected he would return before the regular season debut against Cincinnati, but back injuries can easily see set backs. However, Flacco returned to practice this week along with two of his top weapons.
Danny Woodhead and Breshad Perriman began practicing this week after dealing with minor injuries. They will be important to Ravens if they have any hopes of beating the Bengals. Woodhead is a walking mismatch against the Bengals’ defense, and Perriman completes the speedster duo that can cause headaches in the back end of a defense.
John Ross returned to practice on a limited basis for the Bengals, but he is expected to miss this game. Shawn Williams has yet to return to practice and the same goes for C.J. Uzomah. All three will almost surely sit this week.
The Ravens have a fairly rich history of being competitive, especially in the Flacco era. The past two seasons have ended without a trip to the postseason though, and the players have a feeling that the pressure is on.
John Harbaugh, whether it is fair or not, is on the hot seat this season. The Ravens haven’t met their expectations for two years, and one more could easily mean the team moves in a different direction. If you think that’s crazy, ask Brian Billick who won a Super Bowl in 2000, and after missing the playoffs for the third time in his seven year career with the team was fired.
The Ravens are a well run organization, but they really put a lot of pressure on their coaches to stay competitive. It has worked so far for the team, and we will see if the pressure this season pushes the Ravens back to the playoffs.
Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, September 10, 1:00 p.m. ET
The news no Cleveland fan wanted to hear was released Wednesday afternoon as Myles Garrett was knocked out of practice with a high ankle sprain. It is likely he will miss a few weeks. The injury happened as he got rolled up on at practice. It is unfortunate, but it is football.
It really puts a damper on what little hopes the Browns had on Sunday against the Steelers. We should still expect Greg Williams to send every blitz in the book at Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers, meanwhile, only have one player listed on their injury report, Jerald Hawkins. That is pretty much the dream scenario for any team entering the regular season.
In a surprising move, on Thursday the Browns released safety Calvin Pryor. The team cited a fight with a teammate that spurred the move. It has since been revealed second-year wide receiver Ricardo Louis was on the opposite end of the fight and that head coach Hue Jackson demanded Pryor knock it off, but he refused.
It is weird how people are spinning this negatively, and anyone who reads this feature regularly knows I love a good jab at the Browns as much as the next guy. But for a team trying to establish a culture, this is a necessary move.
The Browns are trying to gather players who want to be in Cleveland and who want to compete with each other to turn the team around. If you keep a few bad apples, it could rot the whole batch. It isn’t like Pryor was even a starting safety. The Browns took a chance on him, and it didn’t work out.
There has been plenty of speculation about what kind of workload Bell should expect in Week 1 after his summer-long holdout, which lasted until this past week. Well, his offensive line hopes he won’t be held back and will take on a full workload in .
“I think he does,” Ramon Foster told ESPN of hoping Bell plays a normal workload. “I’m excited. Hell, I want to see what he does this season. A lot is riding on him.”
Reports out of Steelers’ practice also seem to think Bell looks as good as ever, which is bad news for the Browns. If he is healthy and in shape there is really no reason to limit him. Last season Bell torched the Browns for more than 200 yards when the two teams met in Cleveland. If he repeats that outing, the Browns will have no chance, and the Steelers would likely coast to a win.