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Around the AFC North: Can the Browns and Ravens beat the big dogs?

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The Browns and Ravens can prove they are ready to be considered contenders with wins this weekend.

Cleveland Browns v New York Jets Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

The Bengals may still be last in the AFC North, but at least they have company in the form of the Steelers. They will be looking to get a young quarterback’s career started off with a win.

Meanwhile, the Ravens are going to be in a dog fight for a game that could mean something when playoff seeding is being decided at the end of the year. Also the Browns are playing their first good team of the season.

Can they show they are ready to be talked about like contenders?

Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)

The Ravens are the leaders of the AFC North, and they have looked really impressive so far during the season. The offense has looked smooth, and the defense has done its job at keeping opposing teams out of the endzone.

The Ravens defense will be put to the ultimate test this week as they will be tasked with stopping quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. He has quickly risen the quarterback ranks after his jaw dropping season last year, and he hasn’t slowed down coming into 2019. The running game for the Chiefs is a different story though, as they have struggled to get going (26th ranked rushing offense). Baltimore may be smart to try and force Kansas City into beating them running the ball, but that is easier said than done.

There is no way around the fact that this is the best offense they’ve played all season. The Dolphins hardly count as more than a bye week scrimmage, and the Cardinals were playing a rookie in his second NFL start. It would be quite the statement for the Ravens to be able to go out and seven slowdown Mahomes and the Chiefs.

As for the Ravens offense, they should still have fairly easy sledding. The Chiefs defense isn’t nearly as bad as it was last year, but they are far from an elite group. Kansas City seems to have had two easy tasks facing the Jaguars playing a backup quarterback for most of the game and the Raiders last week, which has an impact on their statistical standings. Baltimore is easily their toughest task this far into the season.

This game comes down to whether the Ravens can keep the Chiefs under 30 points. If they can’t do that then they don’t have a great shot at remaining undefeated.

Cleveland Browns (1-1) vs. Los Angeles (2-0)

The Browns got to crack open the beer fridges early this season on Monday Night Football. They managed to take care of a Jets team that was forced into playing their third string quarterback. They are rewarded by heading to Los Angeles to play one of the best teams so far this season in the Rams.

The Browns offense has had some issues along the offensive line, but you could also say the play calling has been a little too heavy on looking for the big plays. Maybe getting Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason got head coach Freddie Kitchens a little too excited to try and have this offense firing off shots all game.

The results have been the Browns clawing and scratching their way to try and stay in games or score points. It has also made Baker Mayfield a less efficient quarterback. He is completing just over 60 percent of his passes and has two touchdowns compared to four interceptions.

Cleveland’s offense needs corrected before they go into Los Angeles to play the Rams’ dominant defense. They are the fifth ranked defense in terms of total yards, and they know how to put pressure on a quarterback.

The Browns defense also will be tested again. In Week 1 the game could’ve actually had a far worse outcome as Marcus Mariota was constantly missing receivers, and it kept the Browns in the game longer than they should’ve been. The Rams offense won’t extend that same courtesy. Jared Goff may not be an elite quarterback, but he knows how to keep this offense moving, and he is more capable of making Cleveland pay for leaving receivers open.

This game will probably help show where the Browns really belong in the tiers of the current NFL. Are they really ready to play with the big dogs, or are they just a good team who will be happy to make the playoffs?

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-0)

So starts a new era in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger is likely out the rest of the season, which means it is Mason Rudolph’s time to shine in Pittsburgh. The Steelers also sent a quick message that they aren’t ready to tank as they traded away next season’s first round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick to help sure up some of their secondary troubles.

Starting with Pittsburgh’s offense, they didn’t have a great showing against the Seahawks. It required two fumbles by Seattle in their own territory to help keep Pittsburgh in the game. To be fair though, they capitalized on those opportunities. There is no question that they will be in for a much tougher task with the 49ers getting a chance to finally play at home. How Rudolph is able to navigate this defense will probably decide whether or not the Steelers have a chance this week.

Pittsburgh’s defense also has a pretty tall task ahead of them. Last week we saw how well the 49ers are able to build a game plan to attack the weaknesses of an opposing offense. They make you cover the whole field on basically every play.

The Steelers may have acquired Fitzpatrick, but that secondary and coverage over the middle of the field is still a bit suspect. There are still plenty of holes to be attacked. It is more of a matter of how well can the Steelers hide them?

This is the Steelers opportunity to get their first win of the season, and try to leave the Bengals all alone in the basement of the AFC North.