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State of the AFC North: Week 2

The Bengals sit atop the division after defeating the Ravens, while the Steelers and Browns failed to secure their first victory.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals held off a Ravens comeback attempt on Thursday night, improving their record to 2-0. In two consecutive weeks, Cincinnati has outscored their opponent 34-23 and they currently possess first place in the division.

After tying each other last week, the Steelers and Browns both lost this weekend. At 0-1-1, they round out of the bottom of the division, while the Ravens sit at second place with a 1-1 record.

Bengals defeat Ravens: 34-23

A.J. Green & Andy Dalton’s big first half

The Bengals got off to a quick start on Thursday night, taking advantage of a Ravens defense that was uncharacteristically shaky. Without C.J. Mosley and Jimmy Smith, Baltimore had no answer for Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.

Cincinnati jumped out to a 21-0 advantage in the first 17 minutes of the game, courtesy of three A.J. Green touchdown receptions. He beat Tavon Young twice out of the slot and scored on Marlon Humphrey in the end zone.

Dalton was firing on all cylinders in the first half, throwing four touchdowns. Both he and Green cooled off in the second half, but the damage was already done. Dalton threw for 265 passing yards on the night with no interceptions, good for a rating of 107.7.

Joe Mixon Injured

Mixon, the Bengals leading rusher, has gotten off to a strong start this season. While the Ravens did a decent job of containing him throughout the night, Mixon finished with 84 rushing yards on 21 attempts.

He appeared to injure his knee in the first half and was taken to sideline. While Mixon was clearly in pain, he eventually came back into the game. It may not have been the best decision as his injury required arthroscopic surgery on Saturday.

Mixon will be sidelined for roughly 2-4 weeks, a significant loss for the Bengals. Giovani Bernard will take over the starting running back duties. While Bernard is a serviceable rusher, he is best suited as a pass-catcher and situational back.

Flacco’s struggles against Bengals continue

After lighting up the Buffalo Bills defense in the season opener, Flacco failed to repeat such performance in Week 2. Cincinnati has not been to kind to Flacco in recent years, and Thursday night was no exception.

He was ultimately not helped by the offensive line, but Flacco played poorly. He made several bad decisions and consistently misfired throughout the game. Flacco badly overthrew Michael Crabtree for an interception early in the first quarter.

Flacco’s second interception was not exactly his fault, but there were several over throws that could have easily been intercepted as well. He finished with 376 passing yards and two touchdowns, but there was far more bad than good for Flacco.

Ravens feel C.J. Mosley’s absence

Baltimore’s All-Pro linebacker was carted off the field in the first quarter after suffering a non-contact knee injury. Without Mosley roaming the middle of the field, the Ravens defense struggled.

It appeared Mosley may have torn his ACL, but luckily it was only a bone bruise and Mosley suffered no ligament damage. Mosley may be ready to roll against the Broncos in Week 3, but it is more likely that he misses at least one week.

Look for Kenny Young, a fourth-round pick out of UCLA, to step up in his absence. Young was arguably the Ravens most impressive defensive player against the Bengals. He made several impact plays and showcased sideline-to-sideline speed. Young was also a preseason standout.

Chiefs defeat Steelers: 42-37

Comeback attempt falls short

Like the Ravens, the Steelers found themselves down 21-0 in the first half. However, they used a big second quarter to flip the script and tie the game entering halftime.

Ben Roethlisberger bounced back nicely after a dismal Week 1, throwing for 452 yards and three touchdowns on a whopping 60 pass attempts. The Steelers were forced to abandon the run after falling down early.

Ultimately, Pittsburgh had no answers for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense. Mahomes carved up the Steelers defense all game, completing 23/28 of his passes for 326 yards and six touchdowns.

JuJu Smith-Schuster continues to ascend

Many Ravens fans wanted Baltimore to select JuJu Smith-Schuster in the 2017 draft, and it is easy to see why. After an impressive rookie season, Smith-Schuster is off to a hot start in his sophomore campaign.

It’s Smith-Schuster, not Antonio Brown, whose been the best Steelers receiver. In Week 1, JuJu caught five passes for 119 yards. Against the Chiefs, he was nothing short of phenomenal. Smith-Schuster corralled 13 of his 19 targets for 121 yards and a touchdown.

Through two weeks, Smith-Schuster has caught 18 passes for 240 yards. He looks well on his way to topping his rookie year numbers and could very well finish as one of the leading receivers in the league.

Saints defeat Browns: 21-18

Crushing defeat for Cleveland

For the second consecutive week, the Browns hung tough with a playoff team. They tied with the Steelers in the season opener and nearly forced overtime again in Week 2. In fact, you could argue they should have beaten the Saints on Sunday.

For three quarters, the Browns defense kept Drew Brees and company out of the end zone. Cleveland held a 12-3 advantage entering for the fourth quarter and looked to be on their way to the team’s first victory since 2016.

The Browns defense has shown signs of being legit. However, they were unable to prevent a New Orleans comeback. The Saints scored 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, highlighted by two Michael Thomas touchdown receptions.

Browns need a new kicker

Kicking woes were the biggest factor in the Browns loss. Second-year kicker Zane Gonzalez put up the ultimate dud against the Saints and cost the Browns any chance of winning.

Tyrod Taylor hooked up with Antonio Callaway for 47-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 18. With a chance to give the Browns a one-point lead with just over a minute left, Gonzalez missed the extra point attempt.

He had a chance to redeem himself and send the game into overtime, but Gonzalez missed a 52-yard attempt with eight seconds left. Needless to say, the Browns will be looking for a new kicker. Dan Bailey, who was recently released by the Cowboys, should be getting a phone call in the next few days.