The Bengals get another shot at an AFC North opponent this week. After experiencing humiliation by the hands of the Steelers two weeks ago, they’ll travel to Baltimore to face the division-leading Ravens.
The Browns get to return home after getting blown out on Monday Night Football. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh gets a chance to enjoy some sunshine in Los Angeles as they try to bucket out as much water from their half sunken ship.
Baltimore Ravens (3-2) vs Cincinnati Bengals (0-5)
Continuing their descent back to earth, Baltimore is coming fresh off a close game against Pittsburgh. Ultimately, the Ravens pulled the game out in overtime, but it does leave the door cracked for the Bengals to sneak a win.
Of course, Cincinnati’s defense will have its hands full trying to slow down Lamar Jackson and this offense designed around misdirection, which is exactly what the Bengals have struggled with all season. It sounds like Cincinnati is jumping on the “what do we have to lose?” train and is going to play rookie linebacker Germaine Pratt more. No one should expect this switch to have the Bengals’ defense pull a 180, but his athleticism should make it harder for a player like Jackson to reach the edge.
The Ravens defense hasn’t played up to snuff, but they are getting the Bengals at just the right time it seems. Andy Dalton isn’t surrounded by much other than Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon, and Cincinnati hasn’t been highlighting players like Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert or C.J. Uzomah during this time either. It seems like most defenses have a pretty easy day when the Cincinnati is on the schedule, and until A.J. Green and/or Cordy Glenn officially return to the lineup, there is little reason to expect that to change.
Cleveland Browns (2-3) vs Seattle Seahawks (4-1)
The Browns were flying high for a week. They went out and beat up the Ravens to claim the lead of the division in Week 4, but then they looked worse than the Bengals did against the 49ers last week.
You can attribute plenty of the Browns issues on their offense. Baker Mayfield has not looked like the same quarterback from his rookie season. Some have blamed the offensive line, and others claim that the young quarterback is trying to do too much. All I know is someone should probably remind the Browns the have Odell Beckham Jr. on their roster. People talked about how bad Eli Manning was, but at least he was smart enough to get the ball to the best player on the field consistently.
Cleveland’s defense needs to turn things around after an embarrassing performance against the 49ers. San Francisco nearly had two 100-yard rushers against Cleveland last week. The Seahawks have been very committed to the run when they can this season, but the Browns ticket to victory will rely on being able to contain Russell Wilson. Cleveland could also really use the return of Denzel Ward at corner. He has missed the past three games, and he has yet to have a full practice under his belt. If he can’t go then Wilson’s success through the air becomes that much easier.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-3)
The Steelers are in the midst of a strange season. They are now 1-4, and their hopes of reach the playoffs are especially low after losing a nail-biter to the Ravens last week. We also saw quarterback Mason Rudolph suffer a scary concussion that game, but somehow he returned to practice on Wednesday.
It seems especially reckless to put Rudolph back out there, but if he made it through protocol then there really isn’t anything holding them back from playing him. No matter who is under center, they will be facing a borderline top-10 defense. The only weakness in the Chargers’ defense seems to be their 18th ranked rushing defense, but that will require James Conner to look more like his 2018 self. He rushed for over 50 yards the first time last week (55 yards), and aside from the Bengals’ outlier, he has only gone over 60 total yards once through his other four games.
The Steelers defense has some pretty tall tasks. Melvin Gordon played in his first game of the season last week after ending his holdout, but he is only one head of a two-headed beast coming out of the Chargers backfield. Austin Ekeler caught 15 passes last week as the Chargers were playing catch up. Phillip Rivers and Keenan Allen are the main showstoppers. Last week the Broncos did a good job of shutting down Allen, and it led to their victory. The Steelers will have to do the same if their corners are up to the challenge.