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AFC North Preview, Week 5: A new era in Pittsburgh

Plus a showdown on Sunday Night Football

New York Jets v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Four weeks of the 2022 NFL season are now in the books. Three teams in the AFC North sit at 2-2 heading into Week 5.

Cleveland Browns (2-2)

After falling to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4, the Browns will now host the Los Angeles Chargers as 2.5-point underdogs.

Cleveland has remained afloat through four weeks of quarterback Deshaun Watson’s 11-game suspension and could be getting some key players back soon. All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett returned to practice on Wednesday after suffering injuries to his left shoulder and right biceps in a car accident on September 26. Fellow edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney stated that he hopes to be back soon as well from his ankle injury. Garrett in particular would be a massive boost to the defense this week against a rookie backup left tackle for the Chargers.

After being held to just one catch for nine yards against the Falcons, quarterback Jacoby Brissett and the Browns will be looking to get their top wideout Amari Cooper the ball more going forward. On the other side of the ball, Cleveland could avoid seeing wide receiver Keenan Allen. Allen has missed the previous three games with a hamstring injury.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3)

The question of how long it would take for the Steelers to make a swap at quarterback was answered last Sunday in a loss to the New York Jets. Veteran quarterback Mitch Trubisky was benched in favor of rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett in the third quarter. Pickett’s first road test is a big one, as Pittsburgh will face the Buffalo Bills as 14-point underdogs this Sunday.

The local kid’s debut was a roller coaster ride of turnovers and touchdowns, rushing for two touchdowns while throwing three interceptions. Pickett’s aggressiveness throwing down the field is a welcome sight for Pittsburgh’s offense, particularly for the team’s wide receivers. Rookie receiver George Pickens could benefit the most from the switch at quarterback going forward. The second-round pick out of Georgia led the team with 102 receiving yards on six catches in Week 4.

The Bills have allowed the least amount of passing yards in the NFL through the first four weeks, even with a banged-up secondary. Pickett will have to protect the football better this week for the Steelers to have a shot at the upset.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)

The Bengals improved to 2-2 with a win over the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football and will now travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens as 3-point underdogs.

Cincinnati toppled Baltimore in both matchups last season, with quarterback Joe Burrow throwing for a total of 941 passing yards and seven touchdowns. The Bengals so far this season have yet to look like the high-flying aerial attack that helped carry them to the Super Bowl, but that could change on Sunday night when they face the 32nd-ranked pass defense.

Tight end Hayden Hurst will face his former team for the first time since being traded away. The Ravens selected Hurst with the No. 25 pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and traded him to the Atlanta Falcons following the 2020 season. After one year with the Falcons, Hurst signed with the Bengals.

Baltimore Ravens (2-2)

Fresh off another late-game collapse in which they squandered a three-score lead, Baltimore will look to rebound against Cincinnati in a key divisional contest on Sunday Night Football as 3-point home favorites.

As they attempt to break a five-game home losing streak, the Ravens could be without their top wide receiver Rashod Bateman. Bateman suffered a foot injury last Sunday and has yet to practice this week. Baltimore also lost running back Justice Hill on Sunday with a hamstring injury, so veterans Mike Davis or Kenyan Drake could be in line for a larger workload alongside J.K. Dobbins in the backfield. Running back Gus Edwards returned to practice for the first time since tearing his ACL before the start of last season, but the bruising back is not expected to return to game action for some time.

The Ravens’ defense will have a chip on their shoulder following the results of last year’s games against the Bengals.