We are past the Week 8 mark of the season. That’s a half season’s worth of games for the Bengals and Browns. It’s just one shy of that for the Ravens and Steelers. It is safe to say that we have a good picture of what the teams are in the division at this point.
WHAT WE KNOW:
The Bengals are very good and the Steelers are bad. Each week Cincinnati seems to be getting better. Whether it’s beating a good team on the road or pounding a not so good team at home. Andy Dalton appears to be taking the next step and is not turning the football over. In Pittsburgh, well, they need help. They still can’t run the ball, their offense is stagnant and Big Ben has no help around him, particularly on the offensive line. If the Browns had Brian Hoyer healthy, the Steelers would be a lock for last place.
WHAT WE NEED TO FIND OUT:
Who are the Ravens? Are they the team that lost four of five down the stretch before the playoffs? Or can they turn it around to make their sixth consecutive postseason under John Harbaugh? Can they find their running game? Can they have a more consistent passing attack? Lots of questions left for the defending champs to answer.
All four teams have the same division record at 1-1. Clearly, winning division games will be paramount. The Bengals have the lead in tie-breakers with a 4-1 conference record. The Ravens are 3-3, while the Browns and Steelers are 2-3. How the teams fare against the AFC East and the NFC North, will be big. And with the Bengals already beating the Patriots and Packers, they have an edge up.
THE NEXT THREE WEEKS:
Cincinnati: at Miami (Thursday night), at Baltimore, vs. Cleveland
Baltimore: at Cleveland, vs. Cincinnati, at Chicago
Cleveland: vs. Baltimore, bye, at Cincinnati
Pittsburgh: at New England, vs. Buffalo, vs. Detroit
Everyone except the Steelers play two divisional games in the in next three weeks. Huge. Very huge. Cleveland can give themselves life with a divisional sweep, the Ravens can get even closer to the top of the division if they win both games and the Bengals can basically put the division away if they take care of business.
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