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AFC North: Ravens and Steelers Rise to the Top

The AFC North has now seen the cream rise to the top. The top teams in the division – first place Baltimore at 6-2 and second place Pittsburgh at 5-3 – are separating themselves from Cincinnati at 3-5 and Cleveland at 2-7. Both the Ravens and Steelers were victorious over the weekend when the other two teams lost to fall further behind.

Pittsburgh is little by little climbing towards the top of the division. Just three weeks ago, the Steelers were 2-3 and many thought their season was near collapse. However, the team has returned to win 3 straight and are trailing the first place Baltimore Ravens by just one game.

On Sunday, the Steelers faced the New York Giants. Players from both teams knew before, during and after the game that people in the New York area were facing many bigger problems than the players and coaches on the field were facing. Hurricane Sandy devastated the area and people are now just getting power back on.

Sunday Pittsburgh made a huge statement with their 24-20 victory over the New York Giants. The Steelers were down at one point by 10 points and playing on the road. Pittsburgh was able to win on Sunday thanks to their rushing game. Isaac Redman filling in for the injured Rashard Mendenhall had a career day. He ran for 147 yards, a career high and scored the game’s winning touchdown with just over 4 minutes to play.

New York was dominant in the first half and led by four 14-10. However, the Steelers came out a different team in the second half. In the first half, the Steelers were uncharacteristically sloppy. They had 87 yards in penalties for pass interference. They wasted two very good kickoff returns.

In the loss, the Giants saw their four game consecutive win streak come to an end. They looked like they were in complete control 14-7 during the second quarter after they returned a fumble 70 yards for a touchdown.

Pittsburgh is working their way back to the top spot in their division but sloppiness might hold them back. They had a 63 yard punt return wasted when they tried a fake field goal on the Giants 3 yard line and lost a yard on the play.

Nevertheless, the Steelers defense played well, holding Eli Manning to only 125 yards passing. The loss was emotionally draining for the Giants, as they wanted to win for all of those people in the area that suffered through so much last week and continue to suffer now.

Pittsburgh, with the win is now ready to take over first place in the division. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger continues to amaze. He led the NFL in third down receptions going into the game with 51 and on Sunday completed 8 of his 9 third down attempts to six receivers.

The Steelers remain first in the league in giving up passing yardage at 174 yards per game and seventh in the league in run defense. Playing that way, they will be tough competition for the Ravens when they meet twice in a three-weekend period. Those two games at home versus the Ravens on November 18 and at Baltimore on December 2 will for sure determine the division winner.

Next week the Steelers face the lowly Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night and should not have too much problem winning and moving on to play Baltimore the following week trailing by one game and playing for the division lead.

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