AFC North: Division Is Taking Shape, With Ravens and Steelers at the Top

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IOctober 5, 2010

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 03: Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens tries to knock down a pass by Charlie Batch #16 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 3, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The AFC North is one of the best divisions in the NFL. They are known as hard hitting, smash mouth, old school games, that normally resemble closer to a street fight, than a football game.

Prior to the season, many of the "experts" predicted the Bengals to again run away with the AFC North crown, while the Steelers and Ravens would have to fight each other for a Wild Card birth.

With the Ravens and Steelers both missing a player that is considered one of the best in the NFL. Ed Reed, who has been on the PUP list for the Ravens, will instantly upgrade the Ravens secondary upon his return. Same with Ben Roethlisberger for the Steelers, who brings a different dimension to the Steelers offensive attack.

With the first quarter of the season over, the Steelers and Ravens have shown the world, that not only are they the cream of the AFC North, but of the NFL as well.

The Ravens only loss of 2010 came against those Cincinnati Bengals, who managed to kick five field goals against the solid Ravens defense, again, without Ed Reed. They have defeated the New York Jets, who many consider as one of the best in the NFL, and the Cleveland Browns.

The Steelers shocked the world by defeating the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans, who both are considered playoff contenders, along with the then undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Week 4 match up between the Ravens and Steelers went much like most people believed it would.

Two teams, almost a mirror image of each other, played a slug fest, that the Ravens won with the KO punch with 32 seconds remaining in the game.

Watching the game, even with Reed and Roethlisberger not playing, you could still tell that both teams played with the passion of a playoff game.

Ii was fortunate enough to be able to see the Bengals vs Browns game while watching the Ravens vs Steelers game, and it did not have the same impact.

The Bengals, who brought in TO, to team with Chad Ochocinco, were the talk of the NFL. After winning the AFC North in 2009, with the addition of TO, the Bengals were SUPPOSED to run away with the North once again.

The Bengals running game is not what it was in 2009, which has led the defense to have to spend more time on the field, keeping them from playing at the same 2009 level. Carson Palmer does not appear to be playing with the same talent as they did in years past. The Bengals, having lost to the Browns, could be on the verge of imploding.

Cleveland had high hopes entering the 2010 season, with visions of an 8-8 season dancing through their dreams. Three losses to start the season has curbed some of that enthusiam, but the win over the Bengals could bring some life to the season.

The Browns still have issues on both sides of the ball, but the young players that were drafted by Mike Holmgren are making contributions, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel in Cleveland. Though they still have issues that will prevent them from seriously challenging either Pittsburgh or Baltimore, the Browns could in fact, pass the imploding Bengals this year.

Two years ago, the Steelers and Ravens met in Heinz Field for the right to go to Super Bowl XLIII, with the Steelers defeating the Ravens en route to winning their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

These two teams could meet once again in January, for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLV.