Rookie Andy Dalton has impressed many over the course of the season so far. His composure and accuracy is surprisingly good, but seems to fall apart in the 4th quarter when trailing. Two weeks in a row now, Dalton has thrown key interceptions that have killed drives. His poor decision making also inevitably killed a game tying score with under a minute to go in the game.
Dalton looked as if he was ready to shake off the webs from last week’s loss against the Steelers when he threw a beautiful deep ball to J. Simpson that put the Bengals on the 7 yard line and a 1st and Goal with less than a minute to go. Then on 2nd and Goal, Dalton found himself in the grasp of Suggs and launched the ball into the stands (yes into the stands) on the far side of the field. Dalton was called for intentional grounding, which put the Bengals on the 17 and a loss of down. That penalty would prove huge as Dalton could not connect in the net two plays. The ball was turned over on downs, and Flacco would take a knee to ice the game.
It was a bit of a stretch to think that Cincy would come into Baltimore and win. But many in Steelers Nation were on the wagon this week hoping that the Bungals could steal one from the Ravens and give the Steelers the outright lead in the AFC North. With Baltimore’s win, the Ravens are tied with the Steelers but control the division because of the tie-breaker of head to heads. This puts more pressure on the Steelers to not slip into a trap game next week against the Chiefs. It also means that the need to be careful each week because, aside from the ‘Niners in two weeks, the Steelers have a pretty easy schedule coming up. Let’s take a look at both teams:
@ KC Chiefs (4-5) SF 49’ers (8-1) (currently playing Arizona)
Bengals (6-4) @ Browns (4-6)
Browns (4-6) Colts (0-10)
@ SF 49’ers (8-1) @ Chargers (4-5) (currently playing Bears)
Rams (2-7) Browns (4-6)
@ Browns (4-6) @ Bengals (6-4)
Aside from the game in San Francisco, the Steelers have a fairly easy schedule from here on out. Good news. Aside from the game against San Francisco (Harbaugh vs Harbaugh… or as I like to call it the ‘Jagoff Bowl’) , the Ravens have a fairly easy schedule from here on out. Bad news. So it looks as if both teams are pressured to not slip up in the ‘easy’ games and the game against the 49’ers is a huge one. I don’t think we should count out the Bengals quite yet either. They hung tough in there against both the Steelers and the Ravens and could easily take one (or both) away from them in the rematches yet to come.
There is one thing that is for sure – this will be a very exciting sprint to the finish of the season and to the top of the AFC North.