Kevin Gorman’s Who Runs the North? Somebody is even better than the Ravens |
Kevin Gorman, Columnist

Kevin Gorman’s Who Runs the North? Somebody is even better than the Ravens

Kevin Gorman
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson looks to pass against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Seattle.

Every week, we ask the same question: Who runs the AFC North? And through the first six weeks of the NFL season, the answer every week has been the Baltimore Ravens.

Truth is, it might be the Seattle Seahawks.

But not by much.

The Seahawks (5-1) have beaten three teams in the division — the Cincinnati Bengals (21-20), the Pittsburgh Steelers (28-26) and the Cleveland Browns (32-28) — and could make it four when they host the Ravens on Sunday.

Good thing the Seahawks are in the NFC West.

Same with the San Francisco 49ers, also 3-0 against AFC North opponents but don’t face the Ravens until Dec. 1. The 49ers blew out the Bengals (41-17) and the Browns (31-3) but barely beat the Steelers (24-20).

Seattle’s slim margin of victory over AFC North opponents, by a combined seven points, is reflective of a division that is closer than the Ravens’ two-game lead in the standings indicates. That’s especially true when you consider that Baltimore beat the winless Bengals by only six points, the Steelers by three in overtime and lost to the Browns by 15.

The games against the 49ers might be a better indicator of the power structure in the division. There could be changes in the coming weeks, one that could make the division race much more intriguing than it has been thus far.

The Ravens follow their visit to Seattle by playing host to the New England Patriots. Baltimore still has games against the Houston Texans (4-2), Los Angeles Rams (3-3), San Francisco 49ers (5-0) and Buffalo Bills (4-1) ahead, so six of their next seven opponents have records that are .500 or better.

The Browns were the popular preseason choice to win the division but have been disappointing so far and follow a bye week by playing at the undefeated Patriots. The Browns, however, have only two other teams with winning records (Bills and Ravens) on the remainder of their schedule.

The bye also comes at the perfect time for the injury-plagued Steelers, who lost defensive end Stephon Tuitt to a season-ending pectoral injury against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Steelers had six players out for Sunday’s game, so a week off is welcome.

So is the extra day of rest for playing on Monday Night Football. Same for the opponent, as the Miami Dolphins join the Bengals as one of only two teams without a win this season.

Now is the time for the Steelers to make their move.

Baltimore Ravens

Result: Beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-17.

Highlights: Lamar Jackson recorded his third career 100-yard rushing game, rushing for 152 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Jackson became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to pass for at least 200 yards (21 of 33 for 236) and rush for 150 yards in a game.

Lowlights: After scoring touchdowns on their first two drives, the Ravens managed just three field goals in the final three. Without Justin Tucker, Baltimore isn’t in first place.

Next: The Ravens (4-2) play at the Seattle Seahawks (5-1) on Sunday.

Cincinnati Bengals

Result: Lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 23-17.

Highlights: Brandon Wilson returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, the first to do so in the NFL since the Rams’ Pharoh Cooper in October 2017 and the first by a Bengal since Bernard Scott against the Steelers in 2009.

Lowlights: Andy Dalton completed 21 of 39 for 235 yards but the Bengals offense failed to score a touchdown in the first three quarters for the third consecutive game. The Bengals defense allowed the Ravens to rush for 497 yards. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was carted off with a knee injury and did not return.

Next: The Bengals (0-6) play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) on Sunday.

Cleveland Browns

Result: Lost to the Seattle Seahawks, 32-28.

Highlights: Nick Chubb rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries and Odell Beckham Jr. had six catches for 101 yards. The Browns scored on their first three possessions to take a 20-6 lead.

Lowlights: Baker Mayfield threw three interceptions, increasing his season total to an NFL-worst 11, and was bothered by a hip injury. The Browns also lost a fumble and had a punt blocked in blowing their two-touchdown lead.

Next: The Browns (2-4) have a bye this week, then play at the New England Patriots on Oct. 27.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Result: Beat the Los Angeles Chargers, 24-17.

Highlights: The Steelers finally had their first 100-yard rushing game of the season, as James Conner and Benny Snell combined for 116 of their 124 yards. Rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush had a fumble recovery for one touchdown and an interception to set up another, leading the team with seven tackles. Third-string quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges, an undrafted rookie, completed 15 of 20 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.

Lowlights: After building a 24-0 lead before a decidedly partisan crowd, the Steelers needed to recover an onsides kick, use a pooch punt to pin the Chargers at their 1 and intercept a pass in the final 1:29 to win the game.

Next: The Steelers (2-4) have a bye this week, then play host to the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football on Oct. 28.

Hey, Steelers Nation, get the latest news about the Pittsburgh Steelers here.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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