AFC North Round-Up; Bengals Need a Win to Stay Alive

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

'The Lawfirm' could be the difference if the Bengals get him the ball enough against the Giants.

The AFC North is turning into the two-horse race some experts believed it to be. Although some thought it would be Baltimore and Cincinnati, it is instead turning out to be the Ravens and those ‘old’ Steelers. This week, Cleveland is off while Baltimore and Pittsburgh have very winnable home games. The Bengals face the biggest test however as they host the Giants with their season perhaps on the line.

The Standings: Baltimore 6-2, Pittsburgh 5-3, Cincinnati 3-5, Cleveland 2-7

New York Giants (-4 1/2) at Cincinnati – The Bengals couldn’t be getting the defending world champs at a worse time. The G-Men are coming off a very humbling loss at home to Pittsburgh which ended a four-game winning streak. The defense was then called “soft” by head coach Tom Coughlin and now they head into Cincinnati where the Bengals are reeling. With AFC North front-runners Baltimore and Pittsburgh having very winnable games this weekend, the Bengals are literally in the ‘must-win’ position of the week.

What the Bengals need to do is take a page out of the Steelers’ playbook from last week and look to the running game to set up the passing game. Pittsburgh had huge success pounding the ball at the Giants’ front four and weak linebacking unit. With BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Bengals have the guy to do it. The problem is, can the Bengals be disciplined enough to stick to it? I really like the Giants and Eli Manning in particular to have a bounce-back game today. Marvin Lewis’ history with the Bengals usually dictates a poor season after a good one and here we are. Take the Giants to cover.

Ray Rice

Getting Rice the ball enough is the key to a Ravens' victory today.

Oakland (+9) at Baltimore – Here’s all you really need to know about this game. The Raiders are 0-7 in their last seven trips to the Eastern Time Zone. Oh, and they have no running game due to injuries and Carson Palmer is guaranteed to turn it over at least two or three times. So, ya, I like Baltimore in this one.

The Ravens jumped out to an early lead over Cleveland last week only to have to come from behind in the end to win. They may have learned a valuable lesson however as they went to Ray Rice more often than they had in previous weeks which is a good thing. Joe Flacco is a capable quarterback but he really needs Rice to be the catalyst in this offense and quite often Cam Cameron just doesn’t dial up Rice enough. The Ravens biggest issue on defense is being able to stop the run so they could get a break today because the Raiders are so banged up there. Take the Ravens to win by a couple of touchdowns today.

Kansas City (+13) at Pittsburgh – If you ever needed a definition of a ‘trap-game’ then this is it. The Steelers are coming off a huge, statement-making game in defeating New York and next week have a date with the rival Baltimore Ravens. Throw in the fact that the Chiefs come in at 1-7 with rumors surrounding their coach’s future and you’ve got a game ripe with upset potential.

What the Steelers have going for them though is a head coach in Mike Tomlin who will not let this team lose its’ focus and who will no doubt remind the players of last year. Pittsburgh traveled to Kansas City last season heavily-favored and had to fight for their lives in winning 13-9. Even with Antonio Brown out with an ankle injury and Troy Polamalu out again with his calf injury, I expect the Steelers to win big playing at home tomorrow night in prime-time. I like the Steelers to open it up big and cover in the second half.

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