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AFC North Preview: Week 4

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens

After a 27-14 win over the Denver Broncos, the 2-1 Ravens now travel to Pittsburgh to face the 1-1-1 Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Baltimore is looking to break their three-game losing streak against their arch-rivals and prove to the league that they are true contenders.

The Ravens defense is ranked first in yards per game and second in passing yards and has yet to allow a second half touchdown. However, the same unit did allow three receiving touchdowns to A.J. Green in a loss to the Bengals in Week 2, and they now face wide receiver Antonio Brown. Top cornerback Jimmy Smith is still suspended for Baltimore, so second-year corner Marlon Humphrey will have to rise to the occasion to stop Brown.

Pittsburgh remains without star running back Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers are still ranked second in total offense in the league, but their rushing game is ranked 23rd, even with the emergence of running back James Conner. The Ravens have the 13th ranked run defense, but the hopeful return of both C.J. Mosley and Michael Pierce will help to greatly strengthen the unit.

With a win against the Steelers and a Cincinnati loss, Baltimore could take first place in the AFC North at 3-1.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh secured it’s first victory of the season with a thrilling 30-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night. The Steelers now play host to the Ravens in what should be another prime time thriller.

Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled so far this season, and they currently sit at 29th in total yards per game. Baltimore boasts the league’s ninth best passing attack heading into this game. The Steelers 28th ranked pass defense will have to find a way to stop quarterback Joe Flacco through the air in order to win.

On the other side, Pittsburgh’s passing attack will be tested against the Ravens strong pass defense. Second-year receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will have an opportunity to make his presence felt if Baltimore’s defense focuses too heavily on stopping Brown in the passing game. Smith-Schuster is off to a great start to the season with 365 yards and one touchdown. Tight ends Jesse James and Vance McDonald could also play big roles against the Ravens. It is also worth mentioning that the last time these teams met without cornerback Jimmy Smith, Brown had 11 receptions for 213 yards.

The Steelers will put themselves right back in discussion for the AFC North crown with a win over their divisional foes.

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland won their first game since the 2016 season against the New York Jets last week. The 1-1-1 Browns now travel to Oakland to face the 0-3 Raiders. Can Cleveland get it’s second win in a row on Sunday?

The Browns defense currently leads the league in turnovers. Cleveland rookie cornerback Denzel Ward has certainly impressed with his play thus far, meeting expectations as the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft. Defensive end and former first overall pick Myles Garrett has started his second year on a strong note, recording four sacks through the first three games. Oakland’s sixth ranked passing attack will test the opportunistic defense of Cleveland.

The number one overall pick Baker Mayfield made his first regular season appearance last week, sparking a comeback win. Mayfield looked poised and sharp throwing the football against the stout Jets defense on Thursday Night Football. If Mayfield can continue this success, then Cleveland could develop a deadly offense. Wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway are legit targets through the air and running backs Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb combine for a solid three-headed monster on the ground.

Cincinnati Bengals

After a 31-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 3, the Bengals now travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons. Rookie receiver Calvin Ridley has emerged as a true threat and compliment to star receiver Julio Jones for the Falcons, so the Bengals could have a hard time containing the duo. Atlanta and Cincinnati boast the leagues’ 11th and 12th best passing attacks respectively, while both passing defenses are in the bottom 10.

Wide receiver A.J. Green looks likely to play on Sunday after suffering a minor pelvis injury last week. However, running back Joe Mixon and center Billy Price are both expected to miss the game. Starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick could also be sidelined, which is concerning when facing an explosive offense like the Falcons.

The Bengals would improve to 3-1 with a win over Atlanta, increasing their chances of winning the AFC North.