The division that looked like the best in the NFL flunked out today in their games. The Bengals, Browns, Ravens, and Steelers all fell in extraordinary fashion, all of them last minute or OT losses. While the Ravens lost to the 10-0 Colts, the rest of the division lost to sub .500 teams.
The Bengals were stunned by the new starter Bruce Gradowski and the Raiders, on a last minute turnover and the subsequent field goal. The final score was 20-17. Carson Palmer and the Bengals won the game in every way statistically but the final score.
The Browns were outscored 38-37 by the Lions, led by Matthew Stafford's five touchdowns. He threw for an astonishing 422 yards, including a 75 yard strike to Calvin Johnson and a touchdown to Brandon Pettigrew with no time left.
The Browns scored 37 points in their best game since...2007? Brady Quinn threw for four touchdowns and 300 yards, but they fell short in crunch time. Maligned coach Eric Mangini also called a questionable timeout at the end, giving time for Stafford to come back in the game
The Steelers were shocked 27-24 in OT against the Chiefs, who came out of nowhere to tie the game up. The Steelers dominated the stat sheet, but gave up crucial plays at the wrong times.
The Steelers gave up a 60 yard catch and run that was only intended for 10 yards at most, showing how important Troy Polamalu's presence is, and how he missed while he is out.
Worse news was a head injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He has told teammates he is fine and will play against Batlimore, but it is not his decision. He may actually not be ready, and even if he is, his fate may be sealed.
A new policy issued by the NFL states that concussed players must consult a neurologist independent from the Steelers organization.
Another part of the policy is that a player must be symptom free for seven days. It's Monday, and his status isn't even clear yet. Second stringer Charlie Batch was also injured and he will be sidelined for about a month.
The Ravens fell 17-15 to Indianapolis and Peyton "The Sheriff" Manning. And yes, I called him that before John Gruden got a gig on MNF. Great minds think alike.
All points aside, the defense of the Ravens managed to buckle down and prevent the most electrifying pass offense from scoring more than one touchdown through the air. The run defense was able to limit one touchdown for Joseph Addai, who has been inconsistent recently, but has had his days.
For the secondary and the defense that had gathered so much criticism before the bye week, it has been great to see them step up.
They have been stopping the run, stopping the pass, limiting the end zone to a privileged few, and have been forcing turnovers. They have only given up 41 points in four games and shutout an opponent for the first time since 2006.
The problem has been scoring, not total offense. The Ravens can move the ball down field at will, but can't score at all, nor can they move the ball in the redzone. The Colts limited the Ravens to five field goals, and forced two crucial turnovers to win the game.
The Ravens have gone from hot offense and average defense to good defense and average offense. The tables have turned, and the Ravens aren't looking too good that way. They may be 2-2 after the bye and 3-3 before, but the offense has scored very few points since the win against Denver.
Balance is the best way to win, and the Ravens have struggled with balance all year, and have to correct it down the stretch if they want to play in the postseason.