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AFC North Preview: Week 7

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens (5-1)

The Ravens will enjoy a bye week before facing off against the Steelers in what should be a pivotal AFC North matchup. Even during their week off, Baltimore made headlines after general manager Eric DeCosta traded for edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue from the Vikings for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 fifth-round pick. Ngakoue joins the league’s No. 1 scoring defense and will provide a major boost in the defense’s ability to pressure quarterbacks when not blitzing. Ngakoue has 42.5 career sacks since 2016 and instantly becomes the team leader with five sacks on this season.

In other personnel moves, CB Anthony Averett was placed on IR with a shoulder injury while DT Brandon Williams was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The Ravens are also expected to sign veteran WR Dez Bryant to the practice squad, pending a physical. Bryant has not played in an NFL game since November 2017, but Baltimore is in need of WR help and decided to kick the tires on the once superstar Cowboy.

Cleveland Browns (4-2)

The Browns experienced their second divisional beatdown last Sunday, this time at the hand of the Steelers. Cleveland is still in good shape to make the playoffs, but the play of QB Baker Mayfield has left many questioning the legitimacy of this team going forward.

The Browns have the chance to bounce back against another divisional opponent this week as they face the Bengals for the second time this season. Cleveland won the last matchup with Cincinnati in Week 2, but that was largely in thanks to a dominant rushing performance from RB Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the former of which is now on injured reserve. Mayfield will have to elevate his play in order for the Browns to become a serious threat in the AFC.

G Wyatt Teller, TE Austin Hooper, and LB Jacob Phillips are all listed out for Sunday’s game while S Karl Joseph is questionable.

Cincinnati Bengals (1-4-1)

The Bengals lost another close one last week after squandering a 21-0 lead against the Colts. Reports have begun to surface of former first-round WR John Ross requesting a trade from Cincinnati, while veteran DE Carlos Dunlap and DT Geno Atkins are reported to be upset with their lack of playing time. Amidst the chaos, the Bengals must prepare to face off against a divisional rival this week.

One positive for Cincinnati, however, is that WR A.J. Green had his best performance of the season against the Colts last week as he caught eight passes for 96 yards. The once superstar had only recorded more than 50 receiving yards in a game once this season, leading to rumors of him wanting out of town as well. If Green can build off of this performance, then QB Joe Burrow will have one more legitimate weapon in the passing attack to go with Tyler Boyd and rookie Tee Higgins.

RB Joe Mixon is not expected to play on Sunday. Ross and S Shawn Williams are listed as questionable while CB William Jackson III is listed as out.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-0)

Pittsburgh routed Cleveland last Sunday by a score of 38-7. The undefeated Steelers will now take on the undefeated Titans as they look to keep their hold on first place in the AFC North before playing the Ravens in Week 8.

Rookie WR Chase Claypool continues to emerge as another potential star in a long list at the position for Pittsburgh. QB Ben Roethlisberger has adopted more of a game-manager style of play compared to recent years and it has been enough for the Steelers to win so far as he continues to distance himself from last year’s season-ending elbow injury.

Losing ILB Devin Bush for the season with a torn ALC is a big blow to one of the league’s top defenses, but the front seven remains one of the most dangerous in football regardless. CB Mike Hilton and FB Derek Watt are both out for Sunday.