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State of the AFC North: Week 4

The standings remain the same after Baltimore and Cincinnati earn big victories, while the Browns and Steelers fail to earn their second wins.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals traveled to Atlanta, a difficult place to win for a road team, and escaped a huge victory. They outlasted Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in a high-scoring affair to improve to 3-1 on the season. Marvin Lewis’s squad has surprised many this season.

Cincinnati remains tied atop the division with Baltimore after the Ravens defeated the Steelers on Sunday night. Pittsburgh’s loss drops them to 1-2-1, a disappointing start for a team with high expectations. The Steelers failed to score in the second half.

The Browns are also 1-2-1 after falling on the road to Oakland in overtime action. Cleveland had a good opportunity to win, but failed to execute late, as is the case in several of their games this season.

Bengals defeat Falcons: 37-36

Late-game heroics

After scoring 14 points in each of the first two quarters, the Bengals offense mustered just nine points in the second half. Their defense gave up nearly 500 yards of total offense and forced zero turnovers. And still, the Bengals were able to secure a victory.

Down by six points in the fourth quarter, Andy Dalton orchestrated a 16 play, 75-yard touchdown drive. With 10 seconds remaining in the game, Dalton found A.J. Green for a 13-yard touchdown.

It was Dalton’s third touchdown of the day, and Green’s fifth touchdown reception on the season. Those two have been in-sync through the first four weeks and will look to keep it rolling against the Dolphins next week.

A significant blow

In what was difficult for many to watch, Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert broke his ankle midway through the contest and will likely miss the remainder of the season.

Eifert has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, and this is yet another disappointing injury to a talented pass-catcher. Eifert brings legit size and route-running ability, and is one of Andy Dalton’s go-to targets in the red zone.

Prior to exiting the contest, Eifert had four catches, 38 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah will handle the tight end snaps in his absence. While both are capable pass-catchers, neither can replicate what Eifert brings to the offense.

Browns fall to Raiders: 45-42

Baker Mayfield’s first start

All eyes were on the first overall pick after his electric debut in Week 3. After leading the Browns to their first victory in nearly two years, Mayfield fell short of securing another victory against the Raiders.

Baker threw a pick-6 on the opening drive, his first of two interceptions on the day. He also lost two fumbles. In addition to the turnovers, his completion percentage left much to be desired, as he completed just 21/41 passes.

On a positive note, however, he threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns. The Browns two losses have been by a combined six points. Mayfield will look for better results in Week 5, when Cleveland returns home to host the Ravens.

Controversial Referees

Many can argue the Browns would have won this game if it not for a questionable decision by the referees. Cleveland was up 42-34 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter with possession of the ball.

On a 3rd & 2, Carlos Hyde rushed for two yards and was originally given the first down. However, after further review, the referees called him short of the marker and the Browns were forced to punt the ball away.

Derek Carr led a touchdown drive and hooked up with Jordy Nelson for the two-point conversion, sending the game into overtime. The Browns failed to execute in OT and the Raiders kicked a game-winning field goal.

Ravens defeat Steelers: 26-14

Flacco shines in primetime action

Joe Flacco continued his strong start to the season on Sunday night. Despite the lack of an effective run game for much of the night, Flacco was accurate and made good decisions.

He completed 28/42 passes for 363 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. His quarterback rating of 109.5 was also impressive, and his numbers would look even better if not for several drops by receivers.

Flacco connected with 11 different receivers on the night. His performance was far better than the last time the Ravens played on national television, when Flacco struggled against the Bengals in Week 2.

Defense comes up big

The Ravens defense held their own against the Steelers talented offense. After allowing 14 points in the second quarter, Baltimore shut out Pittsburgh in the second half and picked off Ben Roethlisberger late in the game.

Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr did a particularly good job of limiting Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster to a combined nine catches and 122 yards on 22 total targets.

Baltimore completely took away the Steelers run game, limiting James Connor to just 19 yards on nine carries. The Ravens have not allowed a second half touchdown this season, a streak they’ll look to continue against Cleveland next week.

Steelers fall to Ravens: 14-26

Time to worry about the run game?

As mentioned above, the Steelers could not get anything going on the ground. It’s no secret that James Connor is no Le’Veon Bell, but the lack of production out of the backfield is concerning.

In Week 1, Connor rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. He appeared to be on his way to becoming a breakout star this season. However, it’s been tough sledding since.

Over the past three weeks, Connor has rushed for just 97 yards on 32 carries, good for an average of 3.0 YPC. The Steelers need more balance in the offense, or teams will be able to key in on their receivers as the Ravens did in Week 4.

Struggles at Heinz field

The Steelers generally perform well at home, but this has been the case to begin the season. Pittsburgh is now 0-2 at home, losing to the Chiefs and Ravens. Things won’t get any easier either.

Here are the remaining teams the Steelers host this season, in order; Falcons, Browns, Panthers, Chargers, Patriots, and the Bengals. None of these games will be easy outs, and the Steelers will need a sharp turnaround if they want to improve their home record.

The Falcons come to town next week. Despite their 1-3 record, Atlanta’s offense is one of the most potent in the league and the Steelers will have their hands full.