AFC North: Ravens Best of the Worst, More

This week's AFC Roundup includes a look at why the Baltimore Ravens are the best one-win team, the return of Ben Roethlisberger for the Pittsburgh Steelers and why Andy Dalton's wife, Jordan, is not surprised by Dalton's success

The Baltimore Ravens might be 1-6, a terrible record that the franchise has never had to weather, but there’s a big difference between the Ravens and your typical one-win NFL team—they’re about as good a team can be while experiencing so much loss. At least, that’s what ESPN’s Jamison Hensley uncovered this week.

Hensley notes that the Ravens are the first team in league history to lose six of their first seven games by one score or less, with their six losses decided by 30 points total. There have also been a few strange occurrences to plague the Ravens this year, including being on the bad end of officiating screw-ups and the sinkhole that erupted under kicker Justin Tucker’s foot at the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi Stadium.

Still, Baltimore has had the chance to tie or win every game they’ve lost so far within the final two minutes and have come up empty-handed. And it doesn’t matter if the Ravens are a better team than their record says—they still have one win in a year they had hoped to be Super Bowl contenders once again. 

And the Ravens’ current state of affairs aren’t simply caused by outside influences. There’s no doubt that the defense, plagued once again by a rash of injuries, is easily the weakest the franchise has ever put forth. And the offense, while capable of earning major chunks of yards, is struggling to score points. 

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said that for the team to turn things around, it “has to minimize mistakes and we have to execute.” That’s easier said than done when talking about a one-win team that has so many deficiencies in so many areas and and ever-increasingly difficult schedule to face. Their next opportunity for improvement comes on Sunday, when the Ravens host the San Diego Chargers and their porous run defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger Suffered Week 7 Setback

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sidelined since suffering an MCL sprain and bone bruise against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3. In Week 7, there was some optimism that Roethlisberger’s injury had healed enough for him to take the field against the Kansas City Chiefs. But Roethlisberger revealed on Wednesday, via PennLive’s Jacob Klinger, that a late-week setback with the knee kept him from playing.

Roethlisberger dealt with some swelling in the right knee late last week after participating in practice on a limited basis for most of the week, splitting scout-ram reps with backup Tyler Murphy while Landry Jones prepared with the first team in advance of making his first ever start for the team.

Of the swelling, Roethlisberger said he “didn't know what to expect,” and described it as “ a little more disappointment.”

Doctors assured him, though, that swelling is a normal reaction for a previously-injured knee once it’s being worked hard again. And he’s still on track to start for the Steelers in Sunday’s meeting with the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals. He’s expected to be a full participant in practice on Wednesday. The Steelers have gone 2-2 in the four games without Roethlisberger and are second in the AFC North through seven weeks. Having Roethlisberger back for this all-important meeting with the Bengals could make all the difference. 

Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton’s Personality Shining on Football Field

For years now, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson have been trying to coax quarterback Andy Dalton’s personality and passion out of him while on the football field. And it’s finally taking hold. Jackson, in particular, has been pleased with the development, saying, “I keep hearing the term 'swag,'He's swagged out."

But this is nothing new for Dalton’s wife Jordan, who said to ESPN’s Coley Harvey this week that, “I see the same guy on and off the field. It's more of just his personality is beginning to show on the field with the players and coaches.”

Dalton’s 2015 has gotten off to a hot start. He’s already reached career-best benchmarks for quarterback rating, passing yards, touchdowns and wins through the first six games of a season, and his turnover rate is much lower than in seasons past. He’s being as protected as ever by his offensive line and he’s making smarter decisions on the field when he is faced with pressure. 

But, Jordan doesn’t think that he’s a different person, even if he has looked like a different player, adding, “On my end, I was like, 'I don't understand what everybody isn't seeing.' I know how smart he is, and how hard-working he is. I know how he leads our family, so I know how he leads that team. I just felt like people weren't getting to see that side of it.”

Though there are still some hurdles that Dalton must clear, such as performing better in primetime games and winning in the playoffs, he’s apparently becoming the fully-realized quarterback his coaches have been asking him to be for years. But for Dalton’s wife, this is nothing new or surprising: “I really, truly believe and know this is just the same Andy, and they're getting an opportunity to see him shine.”

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