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AFC North: Injuries plague Ravens and Steelers

The AFC North used to be one of the most competitive and strong divisions in all of football. However, this season only one team is above .500, one is at .500 and two are below .500. Baltimore leads the division with a 5-1 record, with Cincinnati in second at 3-3, Pittsburgh in third at 2-3 and Cleveland bringing up the rear at 1-5.

Week six hit some teams in the division hard with injuries and two of them the first place Baltimore Ravens and the third place Pittsburgh Steelers could be affected by them. On Sunday, Baltimore defeated the Dallas Cowboys by the score of 31-29, however, that might be the only good news the Ravens took from the game.

In all of the most important areas of the game statistically, the Cowboys dominated the Ravens. If not for the large number of penalties committed by Dallas and Dez Bryant the Cowboys receiver losing his concentration for just one play, the Ravens probably would have lost.

However, their mediocre play was overshadowed by the serious injuries suffered by the team. Ray Lewis injured his triceps and Lardarius Webb his knee. The two injuries could have a big effect on how the team’s record goes over the last eight games of the season.

Even with both Lewis and Webb playing, the team has not had a great defensive season as they have over the last few years. After the first six games of this season the defense for the Ravens is giving up almost 400 yards a game. They are allowing just less than 20 points per game, which is respectable, but that could change without the services of Lewis and Webb.

The Ravens this season have been able to rely more on their offense than they have in past seasons. Quarterback Joe Flacco’s offensive unit is averaging over 385 yards a game and scoring at the rate of just less than 27 points per contest.

The offensive unit is not strong enough or reliable to be counted on to carry the team. The defense is what has been able to separate the Ravens from teams like Houston and New England but that could be a difficult task going forward.

The Ravens already have Terrell Suggs their outside linebacker out until at least the eighth week of the season due to recovering from an Achilles injury.

Injuries have decimated the Pittsburgh Steelers as well. Both on offense and defense, the team has been hit and it is helping to ruin what once was expected to be a stellar season. The only benefit the Steelers have is they have 10 days off between games since they played on Thursday night last week and not again until next Sunday.

Two of the most important players currently injured are Troy Polamalu and Rashard Mendenhall. Polamalu will be doubtful for the game this weekend. The calf injury the Pittsburgh safety has had goes back to week two and was re-aggravated in week four and he has not played since.

Many are wondering if the talented safety will every return to the way he was the last time the team made the Super Bowl. This week against Cincinnati Polamalu will probably sit out, which is best if the team can remain in playoff contention.

The team has 9 players who are injured by one of the most important along with Polamalu is Mendenhall. The running back returned in week five of this season after having a season ending injury last season. He helped the team against Philadelphia that week and was instrumental in the team winning the game.

However, last Thursday Mendenhall injured his Achilles early in the game against Tennessee and did not play again in the loss. While he was in the game against Philly and early against Tennessee, the team looked fluid and played more consistently. His status against the Bengals this weekend is questionable.

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