AFC North Puts Up Collective Zero In Win Column, But This Is Still Ravens Division To Win

harbsIf you woke up this morning with a case of the Mondays, it could be a lot worse.

After last Thursday night, it looked really bad for the Baltimore Ravens after being routed in Denver, 49-27 to lose their first opening game in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era.

Make no mistake, the Ravens have a lot of work to do before they face the Cleveland Browns in Week 2, but with the way the rest of the teams in division look coming out of their respective games, there’s plenty of optimism to go around.

On this Monday, its merely consolation, or maybe its a glass half-empty or half-full outlook (depending upon your optimistic/pessimistic view) because on this particular Monday, all four AFC North teams begin the 2013 campaign, 0-4.

It doesn’t happen often. According to ESPN’s John Buccigross, the four collective losses happened for the first time since Week 10 in 2010 and the first time in Week 1 since 2002, the first season the division was created.

The only difference is, the three losses by Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Cleveland now look worse than the Ravens loss.

The Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves at home on opening weekend, against the Jake Locker-led Tennessee Titans and managed to score just nine points, two points coming in the first few ticks of the clock on a safety.

By the fourth quarter, Heinz Field was empty, the Steelers offense looked like something resembling a pop-warner offense and fans were clamoring for head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley to be fired.

afc northOut of all the AFC North teams, right now, the Steelers look to be in the worst overall shape.

Adding insult to injury were the three key injuries the Steelers suffered in this game. They lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to a torn ACL and MCL after guard David DeCastro attempted a dive block right into Pouncey’s knee. Linebacker Larry Foote ruptured his biceps and backup running back LaRod Stephens-Howling also tore his ACL. With no offensive line, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times and may be scrambling for his life the rest of the season. The Steelers offense was putrid, amassing just 195 total yards.

If you’re a Ravens fan, its not so bad this morning.

In Chicago, the Bengals wasted a 21-10 lead in the 3rd quarter as quarterback Andy Dalton was picked twice and the Bears scored 14 points in the final quarter and a half to secure the victory.

Marvin Lewis said after the game his team “didn’t play good enough football to win“, and he was correct, the Bengals were flagged eight times for 84 yards in penalties. The biggest one, a personal foul penalty by Rey Maualuga late in the fourth quarter giving the Bears an opportunity to run out the clock.

If you’re a Ravens fan, its not so bad this morning.

In Cleveland, (cautious) optimism spread like wildfire this preseason with the way quarterback Brandon Weeden played, not to mention Norv Turner in place as the offensive coordinator.

Against the Miami Dolphins however, it was the same old Cleveland Browns as Weeden threw three interceptions and did more holding onto the football than throwing it, getting sacked six times and hit 16 times by the Dolphins defense. They were also one of 14 on third-down conversions. The Browns were outplayed by Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, completing 63.2% of his passes.

But if you’re a Ravens fan, time to back away from the Bay Bridge because its not so bad this morning.

This division is still the Ravens division to win. They have enough talent on the defensive side of the ball after upgrading in the offseason. We saw good things from the pass rush of Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. Daryl Smith is a very nice upgrade that can handle his own in passing downs.

The secondary overall was embarrassed, but likely the Broncos will be doing that to a lot of teams this season with the stable of receivers they have. Corey Graham has shown better skills than what he showed last Thursday and Michael Huff surely cannot be that inept at tackling someone with a football, right? Matt Elam is getting close to seeing more snaps just because his talent is evident.

The offense is a concern but the Ravens like Ed Dickson and still think he can contribute to the offense. Marlon Brown was a breath of fresh air against the Broncos catching a touchdown pass. He’ll be the starter opposite Torrey Smith with Jacoby Jones out at least six weeks. Likely, the Ravens will establish Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce in the run game and make that a focal point in Week 2.

Next week, all four teams in the North are in action against each other. The Bengals host the Steelers on Monday Night Football.

Fact of the matter is this: Two teams will start the season 0-2.

The Ravens, meanwhile, are battle-tested and know what it takes to win this division. They also have a nice schedule set up early that they can build up a lead in the division and be fine. The talent is evident up and down this roster. Maybe, just maybe the talent is still learning to gel with each other.

Time to step away from that ledge, take a deep breath. Next week is Week 2 and there’s a long season ahead.

Matt Lund is a contributor for BaltimoreSportsReport.com and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @MattCLund.

Matt Lund is a co-host of the BSR Podcast and regular contributor to BSR. A Towson University alum, Matt is a lifelong Baltimore sports fan and native of Charm City working in sports broadcasting.

4 Comments

  1. MGW

    September 9, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Lund, I think you are correct, the Ravens are still the class of this division. Not sure if that’s more of a testament to how good the Ravens are or how mediocre the rest of the division is. I think the Ravens are a 10-6 maybe an 11-5 team and that will be good enough to win this division. They just gotta make the dance and then, who knows?

  2. not spy

    September 10, 2013 at 9:52 am

    the same People that think the Ravens season is over are the same that think Peter the greek is a good owner,,,,,,

    • mystery man

      September 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Look mr ‘not spy’ , if you are going to pretend to be a disciple of the great one himself get the phrases correct,,,,,,,,,,it’s Peter the Great , not Peter the greek,,,,,,,,even though he is Greek spy uses Peter the Great,,,,,,,,,,please try to get these things correct as not to dissappoint the great spy………….

      • not spy

        September 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm

        MM,,,,,,,you’re embarassing us in front of our ‘friends’…….