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AFC North Preview, Week 9: Potential clarity

Only two teams in the AFC North play this week

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

With eight weeks of the regular season now in the books, some clarity may be taking shape in the AFC North. Only two teams from the division will play this week as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns both enjoy bye weeks.

Baltimore Ravens (5-3)

The Baltimore Ravens stitched together their first two-game win streak of the season with a 27-22 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8 to improve to 5-3. The Ravens will now head to New Orleans to face the Saints on Monday Night Football as 2.5-point favorites.

Baltimore was one of many teams to make a move ahead of the NFL trade deadline this week as they acquired two-time All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears in exchange for a second and fifth-round pick as well as linebacker A.J. Klein.

The Ravens will be without wide receiver Rashod Bateman for a few weeks after the second-year wideout exited the game against the Buccaneers due to the same foot injury that has been nagging him for several weeks. All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews also left the contest with a shoulder injury. Baltimore Head Coach John Harbaugh said the star tight end avoided a serious injury, but his status for Week 9 is unclear. Running back Gus Edwards was labeled as “day-to-day” by Harbaugh after suffering a hamstring injury against Tampa Bay.

In positive injury news, the Ravens activated outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo to the active roster. Bowser — the 2021 team leader in sacks — is expected to play sooner than the rookie Ojabo.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-4)

The Cincinnati Bengals dropped to 0-3 in the division with a 32-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 8. The Bengals will now host the Carolina Panthers as 7.5-point favorites on Sunday.

With star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase sidelined with a hip injury, Cincinnati’s offense struggled to find any success against Cleveland, with quarterback Joe Burrow being sacked five times. With Chase expected to miss multiple weeks, the Bengals will have to find ways to function in order to stay in the competition for the lead of the division.

The worst thing to come from their Week 8 defeat, however, was the loss of cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. Cincinnati’s top cornerback suffered an ACL tear and will miss the remainder of the season. Awuzie — a key free agent acquisition in 2021 by the Bengals — was in the middle of another strong season. Cincinnati will need several young players to step up in the secondary to help overcome the loss of Awuzie, including first and second-round rookies Dax Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt.