Around the AFC North

The AFC North as it currently stands is a division of haves and have-nots. The Steelers have dropped three straight inside the conference, and with just a single win, share the division cellar with 1-4 Cleveland. The Ravens are no longer unbeaten, having lost to Denver Monday night, but sit atop the division with the 3-1 Bengals.


BALTIMORE RAVENS

HOT TOPIC

Ravens cornerback Corey Ivy is in stable condition at a Pittsburgh hospital with a kidney tear after the team's flight back from Denver was diverted following Baltimore's 13-3 loss to the Broncos in Denver on Monday night.

Ivy, a 29-year-old cornerback, is expected to stay in Pittsburgh for further testing and observation for the injury, possibly for several days. Team physician Andy Tucker remained in Pittsburgh with Ivy following the unscheduled landing.

His injury was never considered life-threatening.

"He's comfortable. He's out of any critical danger," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "They have to go through a series of tests to find out the extent of what they need to do, and then what that will do in (terms of) a time frame for him."

Ivy, a six-year NFL veteran who signed as a free agent with the Ravens this off-season, was hurt in the third quarter on a special teams play.

"They thought it was a rib injury, and he felt pretty good," Billick said. "He went back in, as Corey would. He's a tough, young man. Fortunately, it didn't create further problems."

Ivy, who was the Ravens' nickel back, will likely be replaced by Evan Oglesby.

In a statement, Tucker said, "Corey was evaluated on the field a number of times after he was hit during a punt return in the third quarter. He was examined again after the game, including with X-rays. His status changed during the flight when his discomfort became more significant. Although he was stable, we decided that we should get him to a hospital, where more sophisticated testing could be given, sooner rather than later."

PLAYER NOTES

--Left guard Jason Brown made a solid if unspectacular 2006 debut as a starter.

Brown, a fourth-round pick in 2005 who was making his second career start in place of left guard Edwin Mulitalo (torn right triceps), was athletic on pulls and blunted Denver's pass rush.

Brown's only gaffes were allowing defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban to split him and left tackle Jonathan Ogden to sack Steve McNair for a 9-yard loss on the opening possession of the game and a 5-yard false-start penalty that contributed to a stalled drive inside the Broncos' 40-yard line.

"It was a slow start adjusting because nothing can compare to game experience," Brown said. "But I did adjust and I picked it up. I'm very glad I had this experience under my belt. It's invaluable."

--The Ravens activated wide receiver Clarence Moore for only the second time this season, but Moore wasn't much of a factor. His only appearance of note occurred just before halftime when a poorly thrown fade from Steve McNair to Moore was intercepted by cornerback Champ Bailey in the end zone.

"I was kind of deep already, so I tried to come back and try to make a play like at least breaking it up," said Moore, who did not catch a pass in his only other contest this season against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 17. "But I couldn't come through. Champ made a great play."

Moore refused to say that he might've caught the ball if McNair had heaved it toward the back of the end zone.

"I don't think that was the case that time," Moore said. "It was a play where the ball was thrown up, and I was given a chance, and I didn't come through on my side of the deal for Steve."

--RB Jamal Lewis could receive fewer carries if his backups Mike Anderson and Musa Smith get hot during games, coach Brian Billick said. Lewis had 43 yards on 15 carries against Denver.

--RB Mike Anderson could receive more carries if he gets hot during games, coach Brian Billick said. He had been relegated to being the No. 3 back but had five carries for 31 yards against Denver.

--RB Musa Smith could receive more carries if he gets hot during games, coach Brian Billick said. He had been relegated to being the third-down back and had only three carries for 14 yards in Denver.

--QB Steve McNair threw three interceptions for the first time in two seasons. He still doesn't seem comfortable in the Ravens' system.

--K Matt Stover has connected on a career-best 30 consecutive field goals, dating back to last season. He has made a field goal in nine of his past 10 games.



CINCINNATI BENGALS

HOT TOPIC

Antonio Chatman is getting healthy just in time to fill-in for fellow Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, who will miss the Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 games because of a two-game suspension for violating the league substance abuse and personal conduct policies.

A groin injury suffered early on in training camp prevented the veteran wide receiver and punt returner from playing an active role with the Bengals this season until their Week 4 loss against the Patriots.

"It's been so long," Chatman said. "I didn't catch any balls, but I was so happy just to be out there playing."

Chatman could see his role expanded Sunday at Tampa Bay.

Chatman returned one punt for a seven-yard gain in the fourth quarter against the Patriots and substituted at receiver on offense.

"I just want to play," he said. "I've been out so long, whether (Henry is) here or not, I just want to play my role and do my part."

Chatman spent the previous three seasons with Green Bay and became an unrestricted free agent last offseason when the Packers decided not to tender a contract offer.

The Bengals were an attractive destination for a few reasons, one being his familiarity with wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh from their junior college days and offseason workouts in California.

"They kind of talked me into coming here," said Chatman, who played two years at El Camino College before enrolling at the University of Cincinnati before the 1999 season. "But the offense, the style of offense, it fits me. It's a wide-open offense and it just lets you make plays in it. That's what I love."

Cincinnati signed the 27-year-old, whose pro career took root in the Arena Football League, to a two-year contract in March after the team declined to match the restricted free agent offer sheet wide receiver Kevin Walter signed with the Texans.

The 5-foot-8, 182-pound Chatman was viewed as a potential upgrade because of his pass-catching abilities and reputation as a punt return specialist.

"I'm sure (the coaches will) put in some things for Antonio," Bengals wide receiver Kelley Washington said. "He's the kind of guy that you can put all over the field -- whether it's in the slot or outside or on special teams. He's just going to help us with his speed."

Chatman set career highs in pass receptions (49), receiving yards (549) and touchdowns (five) with Green Bay last season. His best game came against the Bengals on Oct. 30 when he caught eight passes for a team-high 97 yards.

Chatman's 8.5-yard average on punt returns last season, which included an NFL-best 85-yard touchdown return against the Bears on Dec. 25, ranked seventh in the NFC. Cincinnati, meanwhile, tied for last in the NFL with a 5.6-yard punt return average last season.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Carson Palmer, though he has an 88.8 passer rating, has not been as sharp this season as last. He still has signs of rust. But the fact he is healthy after four games is a plus. Earlier in the offseason, when he was rehabbing his surgically reconstructed left knee, one theory was the Bengals would hold him out for the first four games and the bye week before playing him again Oct. 15 at Tampa Bay. Palmer is 6-0 as a career starter in games against the NFC with 14 touchdown passes.

--RB Rudi Johnson is a barometer of Bengals' success. The more he carries the ball, the better. The Bengals are 21-6 in games when Johnson carries at least 20 times and 13-0 in games when he carries 25-plus times.

--TE Tony Stewart, though limited as a receiver, continues to make a major contribution to the offense as a blocker and as a productive special teams player. He is the No. 2 tight end behind starter Reggie Kelly.

--WR Chad Johnson is featured in Sports Illustrated's First Person this week. Asked about his development as a receiver, Johnson told the magazine: "I'm not at the top yet. I'm very, very good; to the naked eye it looks like, What more can he do? But there's much room for improvement. My offensive coaches never give me praise. My position coach Hue Jackson's favorite line is, "Right now, you're 365 degrees below fly s---." It's the little details, like running the same route the same way every time, so Carson (Palmer, the Bengals quarterback) always knows where I am. Those details can make the difference between a play going 10 or 50 yards."

--WR Kelley Washington has played special teams with Tab Perry out and, as the team's third receiver, has nine catches for 115 yards and one touchdown.

--WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh has 90-plus receiving yards in consecutive games for the second time in his career.

--RB Chris Perry, currently on the PUP list, is expected to be back from his ankle injury for the Oct. 22 game against Carolina. The Bengals need his big-play ability, especially on third down and as a changeup in the run game for bruiser Rudi Johnson. Perry also could help to alleviate the shortage of wide receivers with his ability to line up wide. He had 51 receptions in 2005.

--LB Rashad Jeanty does not think he will practice Oct. 11 as he recovers from a foot injury that held him out of the Week 4 New England game. But he said the plan is for him to play Sunday at Tampa Bay.

--SS Dexter Jackson played for Tampa Bay from 1999-2002 and again in 2004-05. He is expected to be back from an ankle injury to play Sunday.

--G Eric Steinbach might get the start at center Sunday against the Buccaneers. He has received snaps at center in practices in each of the past two weeks.

--G-T Andrew Whitworth would get his second career start as a rookie at left guard if Steinbach is moved from left guard to center.

--C Eric Ghiaciuc might be benched in favor of Steinbach. Fourteen of the 15 sacks allowed by the Bengals in four games have come with Ghiaciuc at center.

--S Madieu Williams, one of the top defensive players on the Bengals roster, tackled poorly in the loss to New England. He is a vital defender against the run.



CLEVELAND BROWNS

HOT TOPIC

Look for the Browns to make some personnel changes when they return from their bye week on Oct. 22.

The most likely change will be at receiver, where Dennis Northcutt has struggled. It seems likely that Joe Jurevicius will move into the starting lineup.

"That's part of the bye-week process," coach Romeo Crennel said. "We'll look at personnel and how they're playing and see if we need to make some changes."

Northcutt has struggled ever since Maurice Carthon was named offensive coordinator. He does not seem comfortable in the offense, and he also is not being used the way he was under Bruce Arians.

Then the Browns used Northcutt in the slot, and ran him on a lot of reverses and end-arounds. Now, he's outside, on one of the top corners, and lost.

His drop against Carolina led to an interception and Panthers touchdown.

Jurevicius is reliable and trustworthy. Nobody on the Browns uses his body better to position himself to make a catch.

It's logical that the Browns move Jurevicius into the starting lineup and use Northcutt as the third receiver, where he can take advantage of matchups that are more in his favor.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Charlie Frye has thrown nine interceptions in the first five games, but four of them were on balls that were tipped. One was tipped at the line when he was hit, and three others went off the hands of Browns receivers into opposing hands.

--RB Reuben Droughns does not have the same explosion this season. Droughns injured his shoulder in the second game against Cincinnati, and appears to be favoring the shoulder and running to protect it. The bye week should help him heal.

--WR Braylon Edwards was nearly invisible after challenging the Carolina corners verbally prior to Sunday's game. Edwards has talent but would be smart to talk after the game as opposed to before.

--WR Joe Jurevicius did not look happy standing on the sidelines for much of the first half against Carolina. Jurevicius is too dependable to be a situational player. He needs to be on the field with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow.

--TE Kellen Winslow remains a bright spot with a team-high 30 catches in five games. Winslow leads the league in catches by a tight end. Baltimore's Todd Heap is a distant second with 22 catches.

--CB Daven Holly has done a credible job stepping in for the injured Gary Baxter. Holly has not brought back memories of Deion Sanders, but he has not given up the big play, which is vital in the Browns scheme.

--LB D'Qwell Jackson was credited with 16 tackles in the game in Carolina. Not many were for a loss, though. Jackson, a rookie second-round pick, only had one tackle for a loss.

--LB Willie McGinest has been playing with a calf injury that does not allow him to run full speed. McGinest will welcome the bye week since it will allow the injury time to heal.

--KR Joshua Cribbs has been one of the Browns brightest spots this short season. Cribbs is averaging 28.2 yards per return and has three longer than 50 yards. As a rookie, Cribbs just ran. He now is running just as hard, but finding the holes in the return scheme.

--RB Jerome Harrison has found few opportunities early in the season. Harrison was expected to be the change of pace back to Reuben Droughns, but he has just 10 carries for 26 yards the first five games.



PITTSBURGH STEELERS

HOT TOPIC

Coach Bill Cowher presented a solution for his team's problems at his weekly press conference Tuesday, something Al Davis preached years ago -- Just win, baby.

"We just have to go out there and win a football game," Cowher said. "I don't want to get paralysis by analysis. It really is no simpler than that."

The Steelers have lost three straight eight times during Cowher's 15 years as their coach, including last season when they slipped to 7-5. They won their next eight to win the Super Bowl.

"There's danger is if you start thinking about last year, you lose sight of where we are right now," Cowher warned. "We understand that. History will not dictate the future. History will not influence what happens in the future. Fate is something you can also control."

After they arrived back in Pittsburgh during Monday morning rush hour from their long flight from San Diego, Cowher took the unusual step to bring his team into the training facility Monday afternoon to go over their loss to the Chargers. It wasn't to punish them, but to clear their minds when they return to work Sunday.

"So that we could come back here Wednesday with a clear vision of this week and not have to reflect back," Cowher explained. "We're going to do that and prepare to play a good Kansas City team that's 2-2 and coming off a good victory at Arizona."

Cowher pointed out that even though his team is 1-3, they've either led or been slightly behind entering the fourth quarter of each loss against good teams.

"We've been in a position to win these games in the fourth quarter. We just have not been able to finish it. I think we're doing some good things and in some respects, we've take a step forward each and every week. But we've got to do it in all three phases, we've got to be able to do it for 60 minutes and we've got to be able to finish games. That's the simple facts of where we are."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Ben Roethlisberger's right elbow is fine and he is not listed on the injury report. Roethlisberger was captured rubbing his elbow in pregame warm-ups Sunday night and he showed up wearing it in a sling during his post-game press conference. Cowher ripped national TV for sensationalizing something he said is not a story.

--RB Willie Parker has been hot, cold, hot, cold with two games over 100 yards and two others that did not combine for 100. Parker does have three touchdowns rushing, one fewer than he had all last season.

--RB Najeh Davenport may be in line for more playing time. Coach Bill Cowher talked about him at length and how more comfortable Davenport has become in the offense. He used him for the first time Sunday night and likely will use him more this Sunday. He also will return kickoffs.

--WR Hines Ward has not gone this long without a 100-yard receiving game since 2001. He has said his hamstring, which kept him out of every preseason game, bothers him when he tries to get off the line of scrimmage.

--WR Santonio Holmes will alternate every other series with Cedrick Wilson at the split end position, coach Bill Cowher said on Tuesday. They did that for the first time Sunday night. Wilson will start and play the first two series, and the rookie Holmes will play the next two. Holmes will return all punts Sunday.

--TE Heath Miller has the best receiving average on the team for those with at least five receptions. He averages 18.7 yards on nine catches.

--RB Verron Haynes continues to be at the top of the list of receivers. He's caught 13 passes, tied with Hines Ward for most on the team.

--WR Cedrick Wilson has gone 20 regular-season games in a Steelers uniform without catching a touchdown pass.

--LB Larry Foote is tied for the team lead with three sacks even though he plays inside and comes off the field in passing downs.

--LB James Harrison, the team's top backup outside linebacker and among its best special teams players, is out for Sunday's game with a high ankle sprain that could keep him out two or three games.

--PR Willie Reid is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game with a mid-foot sprain that tests showed was not more severely damaged.

--DE Brett Keisel got a scare when he went to a hospital in San Diego after Sunday's game with possible kidney damage. He was cleared, but a rib contusion lists the starter as questionable this week.

--LB Joey Porter had two sacks in the opener, none since, and has fallen into a tie for 10th on the team with eight solo tackles.

--FS Ryan Clark not only had his first interception as a Steeler in San Diego, he has climbed to second on the team in both solo tackles with 27 and total tackles with 30.

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