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AFC North: Week 5 outlook

The AFC North has given us plenty to talk and write about through the first four weeks of the National Football League season.

The Cincinnati Bengals are undefeated, with Andy Dalton suddenly looking like Tom Brady. Cincinnati has been able to jump ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers by two games and both the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens by three games. Pittsburgh is without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for at least another month, who was injured in Week 3 against the St. Louis Rams with a sprained MCL.

Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers (-3)

The Steelers are trying to pull off a tough road win against a Chargers team that does not match up well. San Diego has all kinds of problems stopping the run, something running back Le’Veon Bell should be able to exploit. If Bell gets going, look for head coach Mike Tomlin to employ some deep play-action passes, trying to take advantage of quarterback Michael Vick’s strong arm.

Pittsburgh does not have an easy stretch and without Roethlisberger could be in tough shape. The Steelers play the Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals over the next four games, all of which stand to be difficult. Kansas City is 1-3, but a team expected to bounce back and always tough at Arrowhead Stadium.

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-7)

This is a very important game for the Ravens. Baltimore was expected by many to make the playoffs and perhaps even go to the Super Bowl. The Ravens began the season 0-3 and were lucky to beat the Steelers, with a couple of missed field goals providing a glimmer of hope.

Cleveland is also 1-3 and in need of a win. The Browns were projected to finish fourth in the AFC North once again, and that will likely be the case if they can’t take care of business in the division. Cleveland almost beat San Diego on the road, and has an opportunity to climb back into the wild card race with a victory against the Ravens. With Steve Smith out, Cleveland might be able to do just that.

Seattle Seahawks at Cincinnati Bengals (-3)

Cincinnati is proving to be a real threat in the AFC. In each of the past four seasons, the Bengals have made the playoffs but are yet to win once in the postseason during the Marvin Lewis-Dalton era. If Cincinnati can beat the Seahawks, it would give it a ton of credibility in the eyes of national experts and outlets.

Seattle is not playing like a championship contender, struggling to protect Russell Wilson. Wilson has been sacked 18 times, the most in the league along with Alex Smith of Kansas City. Cincinnati was able to destroy Kansas City’s protection schemes throughout last Sunday, so look for much of the same this weekend.

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