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AFC North Roundup: Week 8

It’s lonely at the top . . .

Cleveland Browns Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

While the Ravens sat home during their bye week, the rest of the AFC North took the field over the weekend. On Sunday, the struggles of Cleveland and Cincinnati continued, as both teams lost their respective matchups. The Bengals remain winless on the year and the Browns are now 2-5 and occupy third place in the division.

Facing off against the Dolphins on Monday night, the Steelers took care of business against an inferior opponent. With their victory, Pittsburgh pulled within two games of the Ravens for first place in the division.

Rams defeat Bengals: 24-10

Playing “across the pond” in London, a change of continent couldn’t help the Bengals snag their first win of the season. Instead, they largely struggled again on both sides of the ball and fell to the reigning NFC champions. The Bengals trailed by only a touchdown at halftime but were shutout in the final two quarters of play. Cincinnati’s final five drives resulted in three straight punts and two turnover on downs.

Offensively, the numbers look fine. QB Andy Dalton completed 61% of his passes and threw for 329 yards, RB Joe Mixon rushed for 66 yards and caught a touchdown and four pass-catchers eclipsed 60-yard receiving mark. However, these can be defined as “empty stats”, as they ultimately had little impact on the game. The Bengals were gashed by Rams QB Jared Goff, who threw for 372 yards and two touchdowns. Almost half of his yardage went to WR Cooper Kupp, who dominated the Bengals secondary to the tune of seven catches, 222 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Defining stat: 6/18 on third down

What’s next: Bye Week

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Patriots defeat Browns: 27-13

Another matchup with a projected playoff opponent, another loss for the Browns. It’s their third straight dropped game and at 2-5, Cleveland has dug themselves into a hole within the division. Playing against the Patriots in Foxborough is a daunting task for any team and the Browns weren’t able to overcome a slow start. On three straight snaps in the first quarter, the Browns fumbled twice and Baker Mayfield threw an interception. These turnovers resulted in 17 points from New England.

It looked like the Patriots were ready to blow the top of this game, but the Browns actually did a nice job hanging around. Unfortunately, they never cut the deficit to one possession and failed to execute scoring drives in the second half. HC Freddie Kitchens once again made several questionable decisions and play calls. RB Nick Chubb posted another strong performance (21 carries, 131 yards), but it his fumble in the first quarter proved crushing.

Defining stat: Three turnovers

What’s next: @ Denver Broncos - Sunday, Nov. 3 (4:25 PM)

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Steelers defeat Dolphins: 27-14

Hosting their second Monday night game this season, the Steelers were faced with perhaps the easiest task in the NFL this year: beat the Miami Dolphins. To everyone’s surprise, this proved to be a relatively difficult feat for Pittsburgh - at least for awhile. After falling behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter, the Steelers outscored the Dolphins 27-0 over the next three frames. In his first game back from a concussion, QB Mason Rudolph bounced back from a slow start to throw 251 passing yards and two touchdown passes. Rudolph took advantage of a porous Miami defense that wore down as the game went on.

Same goes for RB James Conner, who had his best rushing performance of the season. Conner turned 23 carries into 145 rushing yards and a touchdown. Wide receivers Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster combined for ten catches and 187 receiving yards, as well as two touchdown receptions. Defensively, the Steelers tightened up after watching Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick carve them up early. Pittsburgh forced two interceptions in the second half and wound up holding Miami to just 230 yards of offense.

Defining stat: 6.2 yards per pass

What’s next: vs. Indianapolis Colts - Sunday, Nov. 3 (1:00 PM)

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