Sorry I'm behind schedule with the rubdowns this week. Been at work till 8, 9 o clock all week. Will get caught up before Week 5.
1. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (3-1)
WK 3 W at Tampa Bay 38-13, WK 4 L v. Baltimore 14-17
Offense Rank 29th, Defense Rank 5th
The Steelers have been in a situation much like I find myself in at work now. For months I've been dreading this past week of 2011 budget meetings. I survived it though, they went pretty well, and now I feel like I'm in the clear and it's smooth sailing for a while. Same thing with the Steelers. They spent the entire offseason bracing themselves for the Ben Roethlisberger Suspension. It's come and gone though, and thanks to some great play by Rashard Mendenhall and a resurgence of their defense, they've come thru it with a 3-1 record, best in their division, and have to feel like they are on top of the world as they enjoy their bye week and prepare to beat up on the Browns in week 6. And make no mistake, they will beat up on the Browns. The only thing the Browns have going for them on offense is a running game, and you can't run on the Steelers (1st in the league in Y/A against the run). Following that cakewalk though, they've got 3 consecutive road games at Miami, New Orleans, and Cincinnati. Ironically enough, their 3-1 start without Ben, could very easily be wiped out by a 1-3 run with him. Maybe. Probably not.
2. BALTIMORE RAVENS (3-1)
WK 3 W v. Cleveland 24-17, WK 4 W at Pittsburgh 17-14
Offense Rank 22nd, Defense Rank 2nd
For a team that's supposed to be on a rocket ship ride to the Super Bowl on a licorice whip this season, I'm not that impressed with the Ravens so far. The win over the Steelers was nice. The Charlie Batch Steelers are not the Ben Roethlisberger Steelers, but a win is a win especially when it's against the 1st place team in the division on the road. If you look at the Ravens entire body of work so far this season though, it's not so good. Thru 4 games they've only outscored opponents by a grand total of 6 points. The reason is sloppiness on offense. The Ravens have turned it over nine times this year, and forced only 2. Joe Flacco's thrown more INTs than TDs. He's been horrible so far this year, and if the Ravens are going to come anywhere close to their potential he's got to be a lot better. The other thing that has to happen is that Ray Rice has to get healthy. The banged up version of Rice is averaging 1.5 yards less than the healthy one did last year. The next two weeks bring a couple of tough games, home against Denver this week, then at New England in Week 6.
3. CINCINNATI BENGALS (2-2)
WK 3 W at Carolina 20-7, WK 4 L at Cleveland 20-23
Offense Rank 10th, Defense Rank 6th
The team that wins the AFC North is not going to lose to the Browns. That is a prediction I feel pretty confident in. There's 3 good teams in this division that will beat up on each other all year, so in order to accumulate the requisite number of wins to win the division, those teams are going to have to beat the weak sister Browns when they appear on the schedule. The Bengals didn't do that, and it is a huge blow to their prospects for 2010. Terrell Owens did provide proof he is still very much a viable NFL player with a 222 yard outburst in that game, but it wasn't enough to get a win over the Pumpkinheads. The Bengals have surprised me by not completely tanking this year, I thought they would. They are 2-2, but rank in the top 10 in both offense and defense, so they are better than I thought they were. They should get well with a win at home over Tampa this week, but still, in this division, a loss to the Browns is a mortal sin. Last year the Bengals won the division because they didn't lose to anyone in the AFC North all year. That's already out the window in 2010.
4. CLEVELAND BROWNS (1-3)
WK 3 L at Baltimore 17-24, WK 4 W v. Cincinnati 23-20
Offense Rank 21st, Defense Rank 22nd
Good to see the Browns get rewarded with a win this week. They haven't been all that bad since they stumbled up on the Ivan Drago of running backs, Peyton Hillis. He of the forehead like a drive in movie theatre has been a godsend for the Browns, fantasy owners astute enough to pick him up off the waiver wire, and young aspiring white running backs everywhere. The Browns MO lately has been hand it to him on almost every play, and chew up clock to keep an awful pass defense (222 yards to TO) off the field. It's working so far, as they played the Ravens close on the road in Week 3 and beat the Bengals last week. We'll see how long he can hold up, he's already nursing an injury this week.