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Old 11-26-2006, 07:36 AM   #1
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Default AFC North less than Super

Prisuta: AFC North less than Super

By Mike Prisuta
Sunday, November 26, 2006

This could have been a game for the ages, or at least the game of the year.
Instead, it's just another game.

They really aren't playing any other kind in the AFC North this season.

Back in September, you may have anticipated the AFC North proving to be the toughest of the NFL's eight divisions in 2006.

You may have especially anticipated battle royals between the Steelers and Ravens, the Ravens and the Bengals, and the Bengals and the Steelers after reading about how "the AFC North remains the place where the best football will be played this season" in your Sept. 24 editions of the Tribune-Review in this very space.

After further review, there is indisputable evidence that is not the case.

The Ravens are 8-2 and running away with the division heading into today's meeting with the Steelers.

They're doing so because they've gotten what they hoped for from quarterback Steve McNair, because they lead the NFL in takeaway-giveaway differential at plus 12, and because return man B.J. Sams and Baltimore's traditionally stout defense have dictated field position.

The Ravens are a nice story.

But if Lee Flowers were still around, he might have referred to the Ravens as "paper champions" last week.

Baltimore's 8-2 record includes three "stole 'em" games against Cleveland, San Diego and Tennessee. And while it's true that you have to give a team credit for finding a way to win in such situations, as the Steelers did last Sunday against the Browns, it's also true that having to rely upon stealing games in the playoffs is in most cases a recipe for elimination.

Ravens head coach Brian Billick was asked last week if his team's 8-2 record had him contemplating the prospects of home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. But the reality of the situation is that the Ravens, even at 8-2, aren't in the same class as the likes of New England (7-3), Indianapolis (9-1) and the 8-2 San Diego team the Ravens somehow trumped Oct. 1 in Baltimore.

The Bengals and Steelers, who finished first and second in the division a year ago, aren't in the same class as Baltimore.

The Bengals still can't play defense.

As for the Steelers, they remain comprised of Super Bowl-caliber talent but haven't been able to consistently run, rush the passer, cover or play special teams at the level you'd expect from a defending-Super Bowl champion. And they've given games away more often than they've stolen them, which accounts for the stench of desperation that will accompany the Steelers into M&T Bank Stadium.

The Browns are once again last in the division and once again deserving of such bottom-rung status.

"They act like they're a different team," Steelers linebacker Joey Porter observed in Cleveland last week, "but in reality they're not."

Well said.

It all adds up to a division that, like the NFC East, hasn't been able to justify the preseason hype.

Today's game will still be intriguing, but it won't be what it might have been.

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Old 11-26-2006, 08:15 AM   #2
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Default Re: AFC North less than Super

This game will bring the hype today, no doubt in my mind that we could have a better record. But throw the records out and lets play some football...
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Old 11-26-2006, 10:37 AM   #3
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Default Re: AFC North less than Super

This was supose to be the strong division, but...... Oh well we fell on some tough times, but I say that we are back!
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Old 11-26-2006, 10:38 AM   #4
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Default Re: AFC North less than Super

Ditto Cleve. The black and gold is coming back!
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Old 11-26-2006, 11:49 AM   #5
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Default Re: AFC North less than Super

Originally Posted by Prosdo View Post
Ditto Cleve. The black and gold is coming back!
AMEN to that.

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