AFC North On The Lite Side

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AFC North On The Lite Side
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Here we are on the doorstep of yet another week in the NFL.  For most teams it is the unofficial half-way point in the season.  For others, they wish it was the last game of the season.

Rams, Titans, Browns, Chiefs and Tampa Bay, to name a few, would like to be on vacation.  Oh wait a minute, they have been on vacation since August!  It's hard to tell the difference sometimes.

There is a huge "marquee" game this weekend when the 6-1 Minnesota Vikings, with their new upstart quarterback with a weird last name, visit The Green Bay Packers in a showdown of two teams in the "black and blue" division called the NFC North.

There are some good second-level games to watch: Giants/Eagles, Jets/Dolphins, and maybe Houston/Buffalo. 

The rest are headlined by Lions/Rams.  Need I say more?

Coming off their bye week, the Baltimore Ravens (3-3) host the first place Denver Broncos (6-0) in Baltimore this Sunday.

Baltimore went into their bye week suffering from three very tough losses against the Patriots, Bengals and Vikings.  They lost those three games by a combined total of 11 points.

The defense was uncharacteristically undisciplined, and QB Joe Flacco seemed unnerved at times.  The offense ranks in the top ten in four major categories: points/game, yards/game, rushing yards/game, and passing yards/game.

The defense is only giving up 91 total rushing yards per game, good enough for seventh-best in the league, even though they have given up over 100 yards in each of the last two games.  There has been a lot of talk about the decline of Ray Lewis' game in the middle of the linebackers as a reason for the rush defense going up.

But they are giving up almost 22 points/game (19th), giving up 333 total yards/game (19th), and 242 passing yards/game (23rd).  These defensive numbers are not the norm for this team. 

The Broncos will not be a walk in the park.  Their defense leads the league in average points scored against with only 11 points per game.  Mike Nolan has revamped the Broncos defense into one of the stingiest in the league.

The Broncos run a 3-4 defense.  In Week Two against the Chargers, quarterback Joe Flacco completed 17 of 26 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns.  He was sacked only once.

That will have to be the kind of day he will need again to get The Ravens back on the winning side.  My prediction:  TAKE BALTIMORE <3.5> OVER DENVER.

The other team from the AFC NORTH participating in a game this weekend is the 1-6 Cleveland Browns facing a Chicago Bears team that lost to Cincinnati last week.  Former Bear Cedric Benson, ran for 186 yards against his former team, so the Bears will be looking to bounce back at home.

The Browns are in such disarray, Coach Eric Mangini believes that QB Derek Anderson still gives them the best shot of winning this week.  Anderson threw for under 100 yards last week. 

Am I missing something here about Anderson?  He must have some dirt on Mangini.  

The Browns' MVP this season is sure to be Punter Dave Zastudil.  This will be his biggest challenge yet as Chicago Bears punt returner is Devon Hester.  Cleveland's opponents have averaged less than seven yards per punt return.  One shining stat for the Browns.

My prediction: TAKE  CHICAGO <13.5> OVER CLEVELAND

Both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have their bye week this week.

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Until Next Time......

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