AFC North week 8: Steelers must capitalize on opportunity

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 25, 2012



Stephen R Stone (@SrStoneSports)
Cold Hard Football Facts' AFC North Sniper 

Only two teams in the AFC North are in action this weekend. The Bengals and Ravens have byes - the former trying to stop the bleeding that is a three-game losing streak and the latter licking its wounds from the thrashing it received from Houston last Sunday.

I’ve decided after last week that this division will likely be won by default. Even though the Ravens maintain a large lead and no other team has looked remotely impressive this season, Baltimore’s numerous injuries have opened a door for their competition. 

Pittsburgh is probably the only team with a legitimate shot to steal the division away from the Ravens, but the Steelers will have to show some consistency if they truly want to capitalize on their opportunity. They can start by winning on Sunday, which would give Pittsburgh its first two-game winning streak of the season. 

With that in mind, here are five things to consider as we head into Week 8.

1. Robert Griffin III leads the NFL in Real Quarterback Rating. 

The Steelers will have their hands full with the dynamic rookie this Sunday. Pittsburgh’s traditionally stingy defense has struggled for the most part of the season and are currently ranked 29th in Bendability, 15th in Defensive Real Quarterback Rating and 19th in Defensive Passer Rating.

Meanwhile, Griffin’s ability to make plays with his arm and feet has sparked the Washington offense. RG3 is first in Real Quarterback Rating, third in Real Passing Yards per Attempt and third in Offensive Passer Rating.

But.....

2. Pittsburgh has won its last four contests against the Redskins. These teams don’t play against each other very often, and although Washington leads the all-time series with a record of 42-31-3, the Steelers have dominated in recent years.

Pittsburgh has won each of the last four games in the series by an average of 12 points per contest. In fact, the last time the Skins beat Pittsburgh was November 17, 1991, when RG3 was 21 months old.  

Speaking of one-sided matchups... 

3. Cleveland has lost seven of its last eight games against the Chargers. Even though they play in the same conference, these two squads also rarely see each other. They have only played each other eight times in the past 21 years, but San Diego has established dominance in the series. 

The old Browns may have moved to Baltimore, but when the new Browns absorbed the established team records, the inability to beat San Diego came with it. Cleveland had already lost four of its last five against the Chargers prior to the end of the 1995 season and the one-sidedness of the series has only continued. 

However, these teams are closer than you might think.

4. The Chargers and Browns are virtually even in Quality Stats Power Rankings despite having winning percentages separated by 357 points. 

I have said all year long that the Browns aren’t as bad as their records indicate. They may be 1-6, but despite having the lowest winning percentage in the league they are ranked 26th in the league. San Diego, despite being 3-3 and tied for the lead in the AFC West, is ranked 25th.

The Chargers issues stem from an inability to stop the pass. San Diego is 27th in Defensive Real Quarterback Rating, 25th in Defensive Passer Rating and 30th in Negative Pass Plays. The Browns far outrank San Diego in all three categories. 

5. Baltimore’s loss to Houston was the teams’ worst of the John Harbaugh era.

The Ravens couldn’t have reached their bye week at a better time. The team’s 43-13 loss to the Texans on Sunday was its worst since 2007, when the Steelers beat them 38-7 in week 9. 

Baltimore is probably still the best team in the division, but it must try to get healthy during their week off (as best they can, considering the number of guys out for the season) so they can right the ship as they head into the second half of the season.


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