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Bengals Take Control Of AFC North with 7-0 Start

The Cincinnati Bengals have opened a 3 ½- game lead in the AFC North after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend 16-10. Cincinnati has started a franchise best 7-0, while the Steelers are 4-4, and the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens each are 2-6.

Baltimore

The Ravens did not sign Hakeem Nick a free agent wide receiver following a tryout during the bye week. None of the healthy five receivers on the Ravens 53-man roster – Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Ross, Jeremy Butler and Chris Givens – ranks in the top 60 in the NFL for receiving yards. Baltimore misses Steve Smith Sr. desperately who is out for the season along with Breshad Perriman.

Cincinnati

Vontaze Burfict and Eric Winston could be receiving serious playing minutes on Thursday night when Cincinnati hosts Cleveland. The playing status of Rey Maualuga a linebacker and Andre Smith a right tackle are both unknown at this juncture of the week. Smith has not worked out in two practices this week, while teammate Maualuga attempted to work out with his injury in drills for conditioning on Tuesday. Both injuries are difficult to overcome when the week is shortened due to a Thursday game.

Cleveland

The Browns must play at Cincinnati Thursday knowing that Johnny Manziel will start in place of Josh McCown. Manziel started one game this season, but has seen little work since the first two weeks of the season. However, when he did play he threw 3 touchdown passes and 1 interception. Regardless, Browns coaches believe their best chance to win is when McCown is under center, but this week that will not happen and their fate is in the hands of Manziel.

Pittsburgh

Le’Veon Bell the starting running back was suspended for weeks 1 and 2 this season. While Bell was suspended, DeAngelo Williams took 41 of the 46 carries that were not to quarterback. That means Williams should be the feature back for the Steelers going forward as Bell has officially been listed as out for the season after tearing a MCL. Mike Tomlin the head coach for Pittsburgh said he had much comfort knowing that Williams was playing due to his experience and capabilities. Williams came to the Steelers from Carolina in the off season and should fill in nicely for Bell.

Cincinnati can extend its lead to 4 games with a win on Thursday, which will start to put a great deal of pressure on Pittsburgh as the Steelers will only get one more chance head to head with the Bengals and will have to count on other teams to beat the yet unbeaten Bengals.

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