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AFC North Preview: Week 5

Cleveland Browns v Oakland Raiders Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Week 4 of the NFL season is officially in the books. Cincinnati and Baltimore sit atop the AFC North at 3-1 while Cleveland and Pittsburgh both tie for last place at 1-2-1. The nation has begun to recognize the Bengals and Ravens, the Browns have hope for the first time in a long time and the sky seems to be falling for the Steelers. What’s in store for all four teams in Week 5?

Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

After an impressive 26-14 victory in Heinz Field over Pittsburgh, Baltimore now faces another division rival on the road, this time in Cleveland.

The Browns are led by rookie quarterback and former Heisman-winner Baker Mayfield, who lit the league on fire with a comeback win in Week 3 against the New York Jets. The Ravens are 15-5 against rookie quarterbacks under head coach John Harbaugh. Mayfield has a cast of talented targets, including wide receiver Jarvis Landry, rookie Antonio Callaway and tight end David Njoku. Running backs Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson combine for a talented group on the ground as well.

Cleveland’s defense leads the league in takeaways with 13 through the first four weeks. Second-year player Myles Garrett has developed into one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers with 4.5 sacks on the season. Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward has lived up to his fourth-overall draft status thus far, intercepting Ben Roethlisberger twice in his first NFL game. Quarterback Joe Flacco will have to continue to protect the football against the Browns opportunistic defense.

Cleveland Browns (1-2-1)

After a disappointing loss to the Raiders in Week 4, Cleveland will look to rebound with a win over a divisional rival when they play the Ravens on Sunday.

Baltimore’s passing offense has given team’s fits thus far with a wide variety of targets. The Browns will have to find a way to contain deep threat John Brown, who is averaging 22.53 yards per catch, with a long of 71. Cleveland must keep a lid on Brown and force the Ravens other receivers to make plays underneath. Forcing Flacco into mistakes is the key to pulling the upset on Sunday. Myles Garrett will surely draw the focus of Baltimore’s game plan, so if he is able to get to Flacco regardless of being double teamed, then the Browns will have a solid chance of stopping the Ravens offense.

Mayfield will have to be extremely careful against Baltimore’s second-ranked defense, particularly their loaded secondary. Cornerback Jimmy Smith returns from suspension this week, giving the Ravens four extremely solid corners in Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young and Brandon Carr. Safeties Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are both playing at a high level this season as well. Mayfield must remain poised and collected despite the variety of looks defensive coordinator Don Martindale will throw at him on Sunday. Getting the running game going will be key for Cleveland’s offense finding success.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)

After a narrow 37-36 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati now plays host to the 3-1 Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Quarterback Andy Dalton has started the season strong and will likely continue on Sunday against the Dolphins 26th-ranked defense. Running back Joe Mixon is poised to return on Sunday after missing two games with a knee injury. Mixon was off to a fast start before injuring his knee in Week 2. Unfortunately, tight end Tyler Eifert will miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury suffered last week. Eifert was a key component to the Bengals passing attack.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has looked solid so far in his return this season, leading Miami to a 3-1 start. Stopping running backs Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake and forcing Tannehill to pass the ball will give Cincinnati an advantage. The Dolphins have several injuries along the offensive line, so the Bengals pass rush, led by Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, should have no problem getting to Tannehill and forcing him into making mistakes.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2-1)

The Steelers are coming off of a lackluster performance at home in a 26-14 loss and will now face the 1-3 Falcons in Pittsburgh.

Atlanta’s seventh-ranked offense will provide a daunting challenge for the Steelers struggling defense, which is currently ranked 30th in the NFL. The Falcons passing attack will prove especially challenging for Pittsburgh’s secondary. Julio Jones remains one of the top wide receivers in the game and rookie Calvin Ridley currently leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns with six. The Steelers cornerbacks will have to find a way to limit Atlanta’s explosive receivers.

Luckily for Pittsburgh, the Falcons defense has been almost as bad, ranking 28th in the league. With linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal both out, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be in store for a bounce-back performance. Tight ends Vance McDonald and Jesse James will provide favorable match ups for the Steelers offense.

In what is expected to be an offensive shootout, a win over Atlanta will go a long way in righting the ship for Pittsburgh and potentially saving their season.