clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

AFC North Recap: Week 1

Three wins and one loss across the division on opening weekend

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

An eventful Week 1 in the AFC North saw the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers all pick up wins. At the expense of the Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals began their season 0-1 after losing in overtime.

The Ravens defeated the New York Jets, while the Browns narrowly escaped Carolina with a non-conference win over the Panthers. Let’s break down all the action from this weekend in the division.

Updated standings:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers 1-0
  2. Baltimore Ravens 1-0
  3. Cleveland Browns 1-0
  4. Cincinnati Bengals 0-1

Baltimore Ravens

Result: 24-9 win vs. New York Jets

The Ravens shook off a sluggish offensive start but rode a dominant pass-rush performance to defeat the New York Jets, 24-9. The Jets actually out-gained the Ravens both on the ground and through the air, won the time of possession, and had 11 more first downs.

However, the Ravens’ defense was not to be had by Joe Flacco and company. New York’s offense converted just two of 14 third down attempts and Mike Macdonald’s unit forced two turnovers. Baltimore’s defensive line won the battle up front in the passing game. The likes of Patrick Queen, Justin Houston, Justin Madubuike, Michael Pierce and Calais Campbell combined for three sacks, 11 QB hits and a handful of more pressures.

Uncharacteristically, the Ravens only rushed for 63 yards on 21 attempts as a team. Lamar Jackson’s connections with Devin Duvernay (twice) and Rashod Bateman for big-play touchdowns were key. Jackson played a pretty efficient, mistake-free day aside from an underthrown interception pass late in the fourth quarter, at which point the game was already decided.

Injury developments: LT Ju’Waun James, who started the game at left tackle in place of Ronnie Stanley (ankle), suffered a torn Achilles injury. CB Kyle Fuller, who started and played nearly the entire game, tore his ACL late in the fourth quarter. Both players will miss the rest of the season.

Cleveland Browns

Result: 26-24 win vs. Carolina Panthers

The Browns snapped their season-opener losing streak and spoiled Baker Mayfield’s potential revenge game in the process. Rookie kicker Cade York had the ultimate debut. York nailed a 58-yard attempt to give the Browns a lead with just a handful of seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. He was perfect on his other three attempts, too.

Cleveland jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and by 10 points at halftime. The Panthers scored 17 consecutive points in the fourth quarter, though, to fight back and take a lead with one minute remaining. That’s where Jacoby Brissett and the Browns’ offense moved 35 yards down the field to set up York’s game-winner.

While they squeaked out a win, the Browns dominated the stat sheet. They had eight more first downs than the Panthers and a 217-to-54 advantage in rushing yards. The Browns’ rushing attack drove their offensive success, which is a formula they’ll continue to lean into with Brissett at the helm. Myles Garrett unsurprisingly wrecked shop with two sacks, two QB hits and three tackles-for-loss. Garrett and the Browns’ defensive line did not make life easy for Mayfield early on.

Cincinnati Bengals

Result: 20-23 loss vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Bengals got off to an extremely rocky start in this game and ultimately did not recover despite plenty of chances to win late. The box score would indiciate the Bengals dominated their matchup. They out-gained the Steelers by 165 yards, had 19 more first downs, and won the time of possession by over 13 minutes. What, then, was their undoing?

Turnovers. It’s hard to win any game with a -5 turnover differential. Joe Burrow’s first pass attempt of the game was a pick-six, which led to three more turnovers in the first half and a fourth interception in the fourth quarter. Including the touchdown return, 17 of the Steelers’ 23 points came off these turnovers.

Despite this, the Bengals still could and maybe should have won. Evan McPherson’s potential game-winning extra point was blocked at the end of regulation. In overtime, McPherson then shanked a 29-yard attempt that also would have won the game.

Injury developments: WR Tee Higgins (concussion) exited the game in the first quarter and did not return after suffering a head injury.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Result: 23-20 win vs. Cincinnati Bengals

On the winning side of the wild finish was the Steelers. Having forced five turnovers and not losing the ball once, the Steelers probably should have won this game more soundly. They couldn’t sustain offensive drives consistently, though. They punted seven times and scored only one offensive touchdown with two field goals.

They scored only three points in the second half as the Bengals mounted their late charge to claw back in the game. They rushed for only 75 yards as a team on 22 carries and converted just four of 15 third-down attempts.

Fortunately, their defense stole the show with a dominant effort. On top of the five (!) forced turnovers, Pittsburgh also sacked Burrow seven times and racked up 11 QB hits. Minkah Fitzpatrick’s pick-six and blocked extra point on the final play of regulation proved to be difference-making moments. In overtime, K Chris Boswell made up for an initial missed field goal with a 53-yard game winner as time expired.

Injury developments: OLB T.J. Watt exited late in regulation with a pectoral injury. He does not need season-ending surgery and is set to miss six about weeks. RB Najee Harris, DT Cam Heyward, DT DeMarvin Leal, C Mason Cole and CB Levi Wallace all left the game early with injuries, too.