In three head to head matchups this week, teams from the AFC North defeated their opponents from the AFC South. The Cleveland Browns were the only losers this week in the division, which remains tightly bunched at the top with three of the four teams separated by only half a game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers looked like the Steelers of old, grinding out a 17-13 win at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Pittsburgh opened up an early 17-0 advantage and held on behind the running of Rashard Mendenhall who rushed 23 times for 146 yards and a touchdown. Mendenhall had been struggling and was being pressured on the depth chart by Isaac Redman. He responded in a big way. Despite the win, some problems still remain for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked three more times as the offensive line continued to struggle with pass blocking. Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jags were also able to effectively run the ball as the Steelers defense once again surrendered over 100 yards rushing. Pittsburgh sits at 4-2 and will travel to Arizona this week to face former coach Ken Whisenhunt.
The Baltimore Ravens continued their winning ways, knocking off the Houston Texans 29-14. Houston led midway through the third quarter, but then the Ravens put the clamps on the Houston offense, holding them to just 58 yards and three first downs the rest of the way. Ray Rice ran for 85 of his 101 yards in the second half as the Ravens outscored Houston 16-0 over the last quarter and a half. Baltimore heads to Jacksonville to take on the Jags this weekend.
The Cleveland Browns came off their bye week and struggled, losing a 24-17 contest in Oakland to an emotional Raiders team playing their first home game since Al Davis' passing. The Browns fell behind early and couldn't complete the comeback. They allowed two special teams touchdowns, a 104 yard Jacoby Ford kickoff return and a 35 yard touchdown pass to Kevin Boss off a fake punt. Colt McCoy completed just 21 of 45 passes for 215 yards. He threw two touchdowns, but was forced to throw in the second half because of the deficit and Peyton Hillis' injured hamstring. Monterio Hardesty ran for 35 yards on 11 carries in his absence. As a team the Browns only managed 65 yards on the ground while surrendering 151 to the Raiders. Cleveland takes its 2-3 record back home to face the Seattle Seahawks this week.
With the Bengals off this week, all three AFC North teams should be favored in their games. As promised, the AFC North is looking to be one of the strongest divisions in the NFL.
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