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AFC North Preview: Week 2

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Cleveland Browns (0-1)

To say the Browns opened the season on the wrong foot would be a massive understated. Cleveland entered the 2020 season looking to take the next step and utilize a talented roster with new head coach Kevin Stefanski. instead, they were trounced by the Ravens in a 38-6 bludgeoning.

After such a painstaking loss, questions regarding QB Baker Mayfield’s future with the team have heated up. Mayfield isn’t the only one, however, as star WR Odell Beckham Jr. saw his name in headlines as a potential trade candidate, though the validity of such claims is currently unknown.

The Browns will face another divisional rival this week as they face off against the Bengals on Thursday Night Football. They’ll possibly have to do so without several key players, however. Both starting offensive tackles, Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin, as well as starting center J.C. Tretter, were all listed as questionable for Thursday’s matchup on Wednesday’s injury report. Tretter was listed as questionable for Week 1 as well but still played against Baltimore. WR Jarvis Landry is also listed as questionable and would be a big blow to a struggling offense that primarily moved through him in the air last Sunday.

LB Mack Wilson and CB’s Greedy Williams and Kevin Johnson have all been ruled for the second game in a row while rookie LB Jacob Phillips has been ruled out with an injury suffered on Sunday.

Mayfield will have to play better this week to alleviate some of the growing concerns that fans and media alike have about the 2018 first-overall pick. Expect a much heavier dosage of RB’s Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt this week after only receiving 23 combined carries against the Ravens.


Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)

The Bengals enter Week 2 fresh off of a loss as well but under much different circumstances. Rookie first-overall pick Joe Burrow was up and down in his debut at quarterback for Cincinnati against the Chargers last Sunday. Burrow seemed to get better as the game went on, however, as highlighted by what should have been a game-winning drive if not for a push-off by WR A.J. Green in the end zone. The Bengals instead missed the field goal attempt to tie the game.

Cincinnati will be looking to avoid starting the season 0-2 while also getting the chance to kick a divisional rival while they are down when they play Cleveland on Thursday. Star DT Geno Atkins has been ruled out for the second game in a row with a shoulder injury. Fellow DT Mike Daniels has also been ruled out with a groin injury. Safety Shawn Williams and guard Xavier Su’a-Filo are out as well.

Burrow will be tested by another strong pass rush this week so the offensive line will have to play better than they did on Sunday against Los Angeles.


Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)

Steelers fans everywhere rejoiced with the return of QB Ben Roethlisberger on Monday Night Football. Uncertainty surrounded the 38-year-old QB and how he would return from an elbow injury suffered in 2019. Well, Roethlisberger answered any questions with a three-touchdown performance against the Giants. Whether or not Roethlisberger’s elbow will hold up over the course of the season is a different question, but for now, Pittsburgh has their gunslinger back under center.

The Steelers will face a much tougher defense this week, however, as they take on the Broncos. Pittsburgh might also be without starting RB James Conner after he suffered an ankle injury against the Giants on Monday night. The Steelers were dealt a blow to the offensive line as well when starting right tackle Zach Banner tore his ACL. All-Pro right guard David Decastro didn’t practice on Wednesday either after missing the season opener against New York. WR’s JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson both missed practice as well on Wednesday but it’s unclear how this will affect their availability for Sunday’s game.

Starting 2-0 will be paramount for the Steelers in keeping pace with Baltimore in the battle for the divisional crown.


Baltimore Ravens (1-0)

In direct contrast to the Browns, the Ravens started their season about as well as possible. The reigning MVP Lamar Jackson picked up right where he left off by throwing for three touchdowns and finishing with a near-perfect passer rating. Any questions about whether or not opposing defenses would adjust to slow down Jackson after his historic 2019 season were answered immediately.

The biggest concern for Baltimore following Sunday’s game was an injury to All-Pro LT Ronnie Stanley. Stanley had to exit during the game and was replaced veteran D.J. Fluker. The good news is that Stanley returned to practice on Thursday after being listed as questionable for this week on Wednesday’s injury report.

The Ravens will face the Texans on Sunday. Houston is coming off of a disappointing Week 1 loss to the Chiefs and will be looking to not only bounce back from that but also to get revenge for the 41-7 loss they suffered against Baltimore last season.