The 2018 AFC North is both far more competitive and chaotic than last year, as Week 5 in the NFL has come to a close. Just a couple of games separate all four teams, while each squad has endured respective peaks and valleys through the first five weeks. Here’s a quick recap of the wild weekend the AFC North went through:
Dolphins 17, Bengals 27:
As of Sunday, the team who has been most steady in the division is the Cincinnati Bengals. Thanks to another thrilling win against the Miami Dolphins, Marvin Lewis’ squad is sitting on top of the AFC North at 4-1.
In the first half, absolutely nothing went right for the Bengals. Andy Dalton threw a red zone interception, Randy Bullock had a gimme field goal opportunity blocked and then Cincinnati’s special teams let up a 70-yard punt return touchdown with 0:22 left in the half.
But, after falling to 17-0 midway in the third quarter, the Bengals came roaring back in dramatic fashion. They scored 27 unanswered points to grab the win, largely thanks to two defensive touchdowns.
In their four wins this season, the Bengals have won in all kinds of manners and venues. Whether it’s facing big second-half deficits, maintaining a large lead, and/or winning on the primetime stage against a solid division rival, “The Cardiac Cats” have been incredibly fun to watch.
Ravens 9, Browns 12 (OT):
Meanwhile, across the state, the Cleveland Browns were finally looking for a true signature win, despite so many bad breaks so far this season. Hosting their division rival Baltimore Ravens, the Browns won an overtime field goal-fest to remain in the AFC North picture.
In just his second NFL start, Baker Mayfield got the Browns a much-needed victory. He only threw for one touchdown with his 342 passing yards, but his scrappiness kept Cleveland afloat the entire day.
Going into Sunday’s contest, Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense was averaging nearly 31 points per game. However, Cleveland’s frustrating defense held them in check, allowing just nine points in the slobber-knocker.
Flacco had 298 yards passing, but zero touchdowns and an interception. The Browns have a much improved defense, and it showed with a two-sack performance on Sunday against Baltimore.
The Ravens are kind of hard to figure out at the moment. They’ve done well outside of the division, but are 0-2 in the all-important AFC North contests, including a Week 2 Thursday Night Football loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati.
Cleveland is very sneaky this season. In their three non-victories (two losses and a tie) this year, the Browns’ margin of loss is a combined six points.
Falcons 17, Steelers 41:
Then, there is the Jekyll-and-Hyde Steelers. Pittsburgh has put up a lot of points this year, but it hasn’t always equated to wins.
However, the high-flying Falcons arrived at Heinz Field this weekend after losing a heart-breaker to the Bengals last Sunday. Pittsburgh took it to Atlanta on the arm of Ben Roethlisberger.
He threw three touchdowns—two to Antonio Brown and one to JuJu Smith-Schuster—en route to a 41-17 drubbing of the Falcons. Brown had been disgruntled going into Week 5, but a 100-yard day with two touchdowns should temporarily quell his frustrations.
On offense, the Steelers remained without star running back Le’Veon Bell, who remains a holdout with his contract situation. James Conner had another nice day in relief, accounting for 185 yards from scrimmage (110 rushing, 75 receiving) and two scores on the ground.
Pittsburgh’s defense seemed to be a shell of itself in previous weeks, but really clamped down on the usually-explosive Falcons offense. The Steelers had been giving up an average of 29 points per game, but only allowed 17 on Sunday.
T.J. Watt had eight tackles and three sacks, while L.J. Fort and Cameron Heyward combined for two sacks as well. Still, the headlines in their win were mostly about the offense.
Pittsburgh’s win sets up a pretty huge early season divisional matchup between the Bengals and Steelers next Sunday afternoon. A ton of storylines permeate the Week 6 clash.
Can Cincinnati slay another demon in doing something they haven’t often achieved in beating the Steelers? Will Vontaze Burfict keep his cool after what transpired between he and Smith-Schuster late last year? Has Pittsburgh actually lost a step this year, or will they impose their will at Paul Brown Stadium, as they largely have done in the Ben Roethlisberger era?
Next Sunday should be fun.
Let’s take a look at the most updated standings after Week 5:
- Cincinnati Bengals: 4-1: 1-0 in division, 3-0 in conference
- Baltimore Ravens: 3-2: 1-2 in division, 3-2 in conference
- Cleveland Browns: 2-2-1: 1-0-1 in division, 2-1-1 in conference
- Pittsburgh Steelers: 2-2-1: 0-1-1 in division, 1-1-1 in conference