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AFC North Preview: Week 2

What’s on the horizon for the AFC North

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

Week 1 of the NFL season is now in the books. Only one team in the AFC North suffered defeat to start the new season.

Baltimore Ravens (1-0)

After a comfortable win on the road against the New York Jets in Week 1, the Ravens will return to Baltimore for their home opener as 3.5-point favorites against the Miami Dolphins. The Ravens will be looking for redemption after an embarrassing loss on Thursday Night Football to the Dolphins last season. Baltimore’s offense was utterly stagnated by the unique amount and style of blitzes Miami threw their way in the 22-10 loss.

The Ravens are still waiting for several key players to return from injury, including running back J.K. Dobbins, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, and cornerback Marcus Peters. Dobbins practiced fully on Wednesday and has a chance to play on Sunday for the first time since the 2021 preseason. After totaling just 63 rushing yards in Week 1, Dobbins has the potential to jolt Baltimore’s signature ground attack.

Cleveland Browns (1-0)

The Browns thwarted their former quarterback Baker Mayfield’s revenge game as they outlasted the Carolina Panthers with a game-winning 58-yard field goal from rookie kicker Cade York. They will now host the Jets as 6.5-point favorites.

Cleveland will want more from wide receiver Amari Cooper going forward after the veteran was held to just three catches for 17 yards in Week 1. Third-year receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones stepped up in his place, catching six passes for 60 yards. With Jacoby Brissett at quarterback until Deshaun Watson returns from an 11-game suspension, the Browns will need more targets, such as Cooper and the recently extended tight end David Njoku, to step up in the passing game to pair with their dominant rushing attack.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)

The Steelers managed to walk away with the victory over the Bengals on Sunday after a thrilling end of regulation and overtime experience. Pittsburgh will now play the New England Patriots as 2-point underdogs in Week 2.

The victory came at a cost, however, as the Steelers lost T.J. Watt during the game. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year exited Sunday’s contest with a torn pectoral muscle. Thankfully, the injury is not expected to end Watt’s season, but will instead keep him sidelined for an estimated six weeks without the need for surgery. Without their superstar edge rusher on the field, Pittsburgh will need third-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith to continue building from his strong Week 1 performance in which he notched three sacks.

Second-year running back Najee Harris also left the game with a foot injury. His status for Week 2 is currently unknown, although he appears to be trending towards playing. Without the former first-round pick, the Steelers would likely turn to undrafted rookie Jaylen Warren on the ground.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)

The reigning AFC Super Bowl representatives did not have the start to the season that was expected as Cincinnati fell to Pittsburgh in overtime. The Bengals now hit the road as 7.5-point favorites to face the Dallas Cowboys without quarterback Dak Prescott.

Quarterback Joe Burrow had an uncharacteristic Week 1 performance that he would like to quickly put behind him as he threw four interceptions and lost a fumble. Burrow may be without one of his top weapons this week after wide receiver Tee Higgins left the game against the Steelers with a concussion. Higgins was limited at practice on Wednesday. Cincinnati’s revamped offensive line did not live up to expectations in Week 1, as PFF charted the unit with giving up four sacks and 18 pressures, but with so many new faces, it was expected that the unit would need time to gel.

One of the matchups of the week will be superstar wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase vs the ballhawk cornerback Trevon Diggs.