Mike Preston: With Ravens in first place, rest of AFC North is quickly heading south

Mike Preston, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Football

CLEVELAND — A month into the season, the AFC North isn’t looking so tough anymore.

On Sept. 9, a genius sports columnist from The Baltimore Sun wrote that it was the toughest division in the NFL. He apologizes. OK, it was me. At this point of the season, I stand corrected.

If the season continues to unfold the way it has during the first four weeks, the Ravens are going to run away with the division title. They easily beat up on the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday, 28-3, and are in first place with a 3-1 record.

Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Browns are 2-2, and the Cincinnati Bengals, who have played in the past two AFC championship games, are 1-3 and heading south.

If the Ravens were just managing to get by, it would be one thing, but they’ve played the past few games without five, six or sometimes seven starters. They had a hiccup last week in a 22-19 overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Baltimore, but they are still winning without receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety Marcus Williams.

On Sept. 17, the Ravens physically pounded the Bengals, 27-24, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates. On Sunday, they crushed Cleveland in a game that was virtually over after the Ravens took a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter.


Next up are the Steelers on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

“Well, it’s a good start,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ve got all these AFC North road games on our schedule right away and that’s an opportunity. Our guys have taken advantage of that so far. Now, we’re going to Pittsburgh next week.

“So, in 24 hours we have to get locked into Pittsburgh because we have to be a better football team than we were this week to go to Pittsburgh next week. That will be our goal and our mission.”

Cleveland was without two injured starters Sunday in quarterback Deshaun Watson and running back Nick Chubb. That’s devastating to the Browns because they don’t have the depth of Baltimore, which is the main reason the Ravens are so successful in the preseason.


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