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AFC North Preview: Week 9

A look ahead for the AFC North

Syndication: Beaver County Times Michael Longo/For USA Today Network / USA TODAY NETWORK

Baltimore Ravens (6-2)

The Baltimore Ravens will return home this Sunday on the back of a three-game winning streak to face the Seattle Seahawks.

The Ravens received some good news this week as free safety Marcus Williams returned to practice. Williams has missed most of the season, first with a pectoral injury suffered in Week 1, and then a hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined for the last two games. Geno Stone has flourished in place of Williams on the backend of the defense and leads the league in interceptions with five on the season, so Baltimore will need to find a way to keep him on the field alongside Williams and Kyle Hamilton.

Since entering the NFL, quarterback Lamar Jackson is 17-1 against NFC opponents. The 5-2 Seahawks will present one of the Ravens’ toughest challenges of the season with a veteran quarterback who is playing well, a deadly trio of wide receivers, and one of the league’s best defenses. Baltimore currently has a lead on the rest of the AFC North but a tough schedule for the second half of the season leaves them with little room for error, starting this Sunday.

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a quick turnaround following their loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars as they host the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football.

The Steelers suffered a scare against the Jaguars as quarterback Kenny Pickett left the game with a rib injury. The second-year quarterback has since said that he will play this Thursday against the Titans. Pickett was not the only important player to go down during the game last week, however, as star free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick exited the game with a hamstring injury that could keep him sidelined for more than just this week. On the flip side, Pittsburgh will be getting back one of their best defensive players and leaders as defensive tackle Cameron Heyward returned to practice this week following a stint on injured reserve with a groin injury suffered in Week 1 of the season.

The Steelers will face rookie quarterback Will Levis this Thursday in place of the injured Ryan Tannehill. Levis wowed in his first NFL start last Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons as he threw for 238 yards and four touchdowns. The recipient of three of his touchdown passes, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game with a toe injury, but is expected to play.

Cleveland Browns (4-3)

Following a loss to the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday, the Cleveland Browns will return home to host the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9.

The Browns will not face quarterback Joshua Dobbs this week as the veteran journeyman was traded to the Minnesota Vikings ahead of the trade deadline. It will likely be rookie quarterback Clayton Tune to get the start against the NFL’s top-ranked defense this week as Kyler Murray continues to work his way back from a torn ACL and get up to speed with a new offense for the first time in his NFL career.

On the other side of the coin, Cleveland could once again be without quarterback Deshaun Watson as he continues to deal with a shoulder injury. When asked if he would play this Sunday, Watson said he was “not even sure.” P.J. Walker will once again start if Watson is out. In other offensive news, the Browns traded away fourth-year wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones ahead of the trade deadline to the Detroit Lions in exchange for a 2025 fifth-round pick. The big-bodied target had just eight catches for 87 yards and zero touchdowns for Cleveland through the first eight games of the season after catching 61 passes for 839 yards and three touchdowns a season ago.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-3)

Following a double-digit victory over the San Francisco 49ers, the Cincinnati Bengals will return home to host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football in Week 9.

Winners of their last three games, the Bengals have clawed their way back into playoff contention in a hotly contested division and conference. Quarterback Joe Burrow appears to have fully regained form after dealing with a nagging calf injury sustained before the start of the season. With a gauntlet of a second-half schedule, the Bengals will need Burrow at his best to have any chance of competing for the AFC North crown after starting the season on the wrong foot.

Quarterback Josh Allen missed practice on Wednesday with a shoulder injury but is expected to play on Sunday night against Cincinnati. For the Bengals, defensive end Trey Hendrickson returned to practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday with a foot injury sustained against the 49ers in Week 8.