AFC Notes

<b>Baltimore:</b> The Ravens are trying to get the passing game to work. Head coach Brian Billick the AFC North division is up for grabs and for the Ravens to make a run at the crown, they will have to throw the football effectively to take pressure off a ground attack that will be focused on by the opposition.

The signing of wide receiver Dedric Ward this past week indicates the concern the organization has about the consistency and productivity coming from the players at the position.

Pittsburgh: The bye-week could not have come at a better time for the 2-3 Steelers. Questions within the Pittsburgh organization have grown louder in the past two-weeks about members of the coaching staff and namely head coach Bill Cowher. The front office has issues with Cowher's decisions to stick with Tommy Maddox at quarterback and Amos Zereoue at running back, instead of long-time Steeler Jerome Bettis. To Cowher's defense, the offensive line has not played up to the standard this season, which has directly affected the ability of what can be an explosive offense.

Cleveland: The Jekyll and Hyde Cleveland Browns continue on their excellent adventure Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Tim Couch, coming off consecutive standout performances once again fills in for the injured Kelly Holcomb at quarterback. Wide receiver Quincy Morgan who suffered a slight knee sprain in the Browns win over the Steelers last Sunday evening will play. Indications coming from out of Cleveland are that the team will aggressively attack an Oakland defense that has been susceptible against the pass.

Cincinnati: Quietly, the Bengals will continue to work running back Rudi Johnson into the mix. While filling in for the injured Corey Dillon, Johnson has played well and displayed the ability to gain yardage after contact that heads coach Marvin Lewis looks for in his playmakers. Indications coming from bye-week evaluations in Cincinnati tell The Insiders the Bengals coaching staff has determined the play at the cornerback, safety, and offensive line positions needs to improve for the team to take the next step on the road to respectability.

Buffalo: Starting the season 3-2 would be a decent start to the season for many teams, but in Buffalo there is some disappointment. The Bills jumped out to a 2-0 start, then dropped two straight before outlasting the Bengals in overtime last week. Head coach Gregg Williams is on shaky ground, as the front office has reservations about his game-day decisions, team preparation, and his ability to get the team to play with consistency. The front office believes that Williams has been unable to get the most out of a talented roster.

Miami: Sunday's win over the New York Giants won head coach Dave Wannstedt some support within the ranks of the Dolphins organization. The Giants game was more that just another early season victory for Wannstedt and the team. The Giants effectively shutdown Ricky Williams and the Miami running game, but quarterback Jay Fielder, wide receiver Chris Chambers, and the remaining cast of offensive players rose to the occasion and out-muscled an aggressive New York team. The common belief is Wannstedt must get this Miami team deep into the playoffs to save his job.

New England: Bill Belichick's timing may not be the best, but he does have a way with getting his teams to perform. Riddled with injuries, the Patriots have remained competitive and are in the hunt in the tough AFC East division. Without a serious threat in the running game, an offensive line that has been average at best, and with a quarterback that is suffering though shoulder and elbow issues, the Belichick led Patriots continue to impress. As stated by one prominent member of the New England front office this past week, "The job that Bill (Belichick) has done with this team may be his best work, even better than the job he did in the Super Bowl season.".

New York Jets: Change is the topic with the Jets coming off the bye-week. Head coach Herman Edwards is expected to inject some youth and quickness into the lineup on the defensive side of the ball, but Edwards will not abandon his veteran leaders all together. Linebacker Mo Lewis has received the brunt of the criticism regarding his slow start to the 2003 season and has been indirectly blamed for the failure of the defense. While quarterback Chad Pennington progresses from surgery to repair a broken left wrist, veteran Vinny Testaverde has been criticized for the inefficient and less than consistent Jets offense, leading Vinny, from what we have been told to tell one member of the coaching staff recently, "If he (Edwards) wants to replace me, then do it. We have made mistakes, but they are nothing that we cannot improve upon.".

Denver: It is time for wide receiver Ed McCaffrey to face the fact that he is no longer a feature receiver in the Denver offense. Recently McCaffrey made reference to the fact that he felt the team wasn't presenting him with opportunities. As one member of the Denver told us this week, "Ed (McCaffrey) is frustrated that he isn't a big part of the offense. Injuries have hampered and taken their toll on him somewhat, he can still play the game, but we have numerous options here and we do not solely depend on any specific player to carry us." With the arrival of quarterback Jake Plummer in Denver, the offense is taking on a new look, one in which does not focus on McCaffrey and Rod Smith to carry the offense. Plummer and second-year wide receiver Ashley Lelie have formed a bond that exists between a quarterback and receiver when they have a trust in each player's ability. For Lelie, this season has been satisfying after struggling during his rookie campaign with the Broncos. "I have a much better grasp of what we are doing here and I am much more confident in our offensive scheme. What a difference a year makes, at this time last season I really wondered what or if I had a role here," Lelie said.

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