AFC North: The Division in the Power Rankings After Week 2
Two weeks of football are in the bag and each team in the AFC's top division a year ago has a loss. Pittsburgh rebounded from a heartbreaking road loss to the Peyton Manning-led Broncos with a home beatdown of the Jets. The Ravens fell apart in the second half against the Eagles to record their first loss and the Bengals downed the Browns in a close one in Cincy.
So following Week 2, Bleacher Report's Lead Draft Writer Matt Miller released the site's official power rankings, showing where he thinks each team should be slotted. Let's see if we agree or disagree.
Miller's Ranking: 6th
My Ranking: 8th
Miller writes: You won't find anyone faulting the Baltimore Ravens after an incredibly tough loss to the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles. The Ravens escape the week with no change in our rankings.
Baltimore's offense got off to a great start, and you could see Joe Flacco becoming the quarterback he's supposed to be. Then halftime came, and the Ravens offense fell asleep. The quarterback we saw in the second half in no way resembled the guy who was tearing apart the Eagles in the first two quarters.
The Ravens can and should win the AFC North, but it will be on the back of Ray Rice and a great defense if Flacco can't put together a full game.
My take: I'm a little lower on the Ravens than Miller is after two weeks. You can't deny that Baltimore absolutely shredded a division rival Week 1 and looked pretty darn good during the first half in a hostile road environment.
But the biggest problem I have with this team could easily be seen in the second half of the game against the Eagles. Baltimore is trying to become something it's not.
This team is so hell-bent on having quarterback Joe Flacco be the face of the franchise, it completely ignores its most valuable offensive asset, Ray Rice. Flacco threw 42 times against the Eagles compared to just 16 carries for Rice who was running at over six yards per tote.
Baltimore tried to get fancy like this a few times last year and it came back to bite them in Seattle. If Cam Cameron can bite the bullet and go against his nature by featuring Rice, the Ravens' team could explode to the Super Bowl. If not, could be a pretty up and down season in Baltimore.
Miller's Ranking: 11th
My Ranking: 9th
Miller writes: The Pittsburgh Steelers dropped a tough loss on the road in Week 1, but they rebounded with a punch to the face of the New York Jets. Now the team sits at 1-1, tied for first in the AFC North and in good position to establish themselves as the team to beat in the division.
The key for Pittsburgh is finding a starting five along the offensive line that can protect Ben Roethlisberger while also paving the way for the run game. Be it Isaac Redman or Jonathan Dwyer, the offensive line has to open some holes.
My take: I think Miller is a little hard on the Steelers here and I'm not sure why. Pittsburgh lost a tough road game without two All-Pro players on the defensive side of the ball while playing against a future Hall of Fame quarterback.
They rebounded nicely in their home opener, holding the Jets to just 10 points and 219 total yards without James Harrison or Troy Polamalu.
Admittedly, I have some major concerns about the Steelers as well. I'm not as concerned about the offensive line as Miller is because the Steelers have been winning behind this JV squad for a few years now.
What concerns me most is their lack of a running game. It's been a long time since the city of Pittsburgh has seen a ground game this bad, as the Steelers rank 30th in the league in that department.
Pittsburgh's only going to get healthier on defense at this point and that's got to be scary for its opponents. If the team can stay healthy and find some sort of running attack, the Steelers could be big-time contenders come January.
Millers Ranking: 10th
My Ranking: 16th
Miller Writes: Pushing their record to 1-1 keeps the Bengals tied atop the division, and that's where they need to be right now. The Browns may be winless, but they are still a tough opponent. Against the team that held the Philadelphia Eagles to 10 points in Week 1, Cincinnati was able to move the ball and rack up points.
If Andy Dalton can continue to play like he did in their win, the Bengals will be in good shape. However, it's not every week that they'll face the Browns minus Joe Haden.
My take: The key for me was at the end of that paragraph. This Bengals team struggled against a Browns defense minus its top playmaker on the outside. The Dalton-to-Green connection should have been off the chain on Sunday.
Instead, Green settled for seven catches for only 58 yards and a score.
Granted, Green did score, but he has to be somewhat disappointed with the eight yards per catch he had.
I've also got major questions about a defense that ranked seventh in the league last year and just gave up over 400 yards to one of the worst offensive teams in the last decade of pro football. Brandon Weeden and Joe Flacco have made mincemeat of this Bengals secondary and this doesn't look like the defense we were privileged to watch last season.
The Bengals have somewhat of a lull in their schedule over the next four weeks with games against the Redskins, Jaguars, Dolphins and Browns. They need to take these four games to the max before they hit the meat of their schedule. Because after Week 6, Cincinnati doesn't face a team who had a losing record a year ago.
Miller's Ranking: 31st
My Ranking: 30th
Miller Writes: The Browns are a very young team, and their reliance on rookies and second-year players was bound to lead to a rough 2012 campaign. The fact that the Browns are 0-2 shouldn't surprise anyone, but it has to be encouraging to see them hang in with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals.
The key for the Browns' season will be the development of their young players. They're getting that so far, as both Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden showed improvement this week.
My take: Again, Matt saves his best comment for the end. This Browns team hinges on the development of rookies Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden.
Richardson was bottled up against the Eagles and Weeden was so bad the team refused to run anything other than a slant route, figuring that was the only pass he could complete. But Sunday in Cincinnati was a completely different story.
Richardson absolutely dominated the Bengals defense, compiling 145 total yards and two scores while Weeden started to come into his own and find his receivers including Mohammed Massaquoi and Greg Little.
Who is the best team in the division through two weeks?
Cleveland's defense has kept it in its first two games this year, even despite star cornerback Joe Haden's absence in Week 2. The Browns have done a nice job putting together a solid defensive unit and that should keep them competitive in most games they play in 2012.
Right now I have the Browns ahead of the Raiders and slightly nudging past the Jaguars. But if Brandon Weeden reverts to how he played in week 1, it could be a long season in Cleveland.
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