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State of the AFC North: Week 1

The Ravens and Bengals got off to strong starts, while the Steelers and Browns tied after failing to score in overtime.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

It was an eventful opening Sunday for the AFC North. The Ravens dominated the Bills and earned a 47-3 victory. Cincinnati outlasted the Colts to move to 1-0. The Steelers and Browns, in the first divisional matchup of the year, ended in a 21-21 tie. Cleveland continues to search for their first victory since 2016.

Ravens defeat Buffalo Bills: 47-3

Dynamic passing attack

Baltimore was easily the most impressive team from the division in Week 1, and perhaps the entire league. They dominated the Bills on both sides of the ball, holding them to only a field goal in four quarters while scoring a whopping 47 points of their own.

Led by Joe Flacco, the Ravens passing attack was decisive. Seven different receivers caught at least three passes, highlighted by Willie Snead IV, John Brown and Michael Crabtree - all of which caught touchdown passes.

The tight ends were also involved early and often. Nick Boyle got the start and secured three catches for 40 yards on the opening drive. Maxx Williams and Mark Andrews each caught three passes as well.

It was a balanced attack across the board, an encouraging sign for the Ravens’ retooled crop of offensive playmakers.

Sound defensive play

The defense did not miss a beat, continuing their impressive play from the preseason. They held the Bills to just 153 total yards of offense. Four different players recorded sacks, including two from cornerback Tavon Young.

As a team, the Ravens recorded six sacks. They also snagged two interceptions; one from Tony Jefferson and the other from Brandon Carr. Buffalo recorded just 10 first downs on the day, all of which came in the second half.

The Bills also converted just three of 15 third-down conversions. C.J Mosley, Maurice Canady and Za’Darius Smith tied for the team-lead in tackles with five a piece.

Bengals defeat Colts: 34-23

Joe Mixon’s impressive performance

Sophomore running back Joe Mixon, who many believe could take a significant leap this season, got off to a strong start in 2018. Albeit it came against the Colts porous rush defense, Mixon rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

Mixon also made an impact as a receiver, catching five passes for 54 yards. Giovanni Bernard was expected to play a significant role in the backfield this season, but if Sunday was any indication, Mixon will occupy a workhorse role this year.

Bernard was given just two carries and caught his only target for 11 yards. It was an overall impressive outing for the second-year Oklahoma product.

Big fourth quarter erases deficit

The Bengals entered the fourth quarter down 23-17, but shut out the Colts in the final frame while scoring 17 unanswered points.

A Joe Mixon touchdown run at the goal line capped off a seven-play, 55 yard drive midway through the fourth put the Bengals up 24-23. A field goal on the next drive made extended the lead to four points.

Andrew Luck looked primed to lead a game-winning drive. However, with just under a minute left, tight end Jack Doyle fumbled the ball after recording a catch over the middle of the field. Safety Clayton Fejedelem returned the fumble 83 yards for a touchdown.

Steelers and Browns tie: 21-21

Life without Le’Veon Bell

In the first game without All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers offense largely did not miss a beat. Second-year back James Connor, who got the start in place of Bell, produced a big performance.

Connor rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. He also caught 5 catches for 57 yards. Antonio Brown was his usual self, catching 9 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. JuJu Smith-Schuster also had a productive day, recording 119 receiving yards.

While he threw for 335 yards, Roethlisberger was extremely careless with the ball. He threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles, which proved costly. Several Pittsburgh drives were thwarted by Roethlisberger turnovers, leaving points off the board.

New-look Browns show improvement

Although they ultimately failed to earn a victory, the Browns came close to pulling off a significant upset. If not for a blocked field goal attempt at the end of overtime, Cleveland would be 1-0.

Regardless, they showed promise. Tyrod Taylor had an up-and-down debut, evidenced by his 15/40 passing and costly interception at the end of the fourth quarter. However, he ultimately made some throws put the Browns in a position to win.

Taylor led the Browns in rushing yards with 77 on just eight carries. Jarvis Landry caught seven passes for 106 yards, leading the receiving corps with Josh Gordon on a limited snap count. Myles Garrett recorded six tackles and two sacks on defense.