HOT IN THE (AFC) NORTH
Sorry, NFC North fans. The AFC North is the NFL’s true black-and-blue division.
Not only does it have three four-game winners through the first five weeks, it’s also the only division with three teams in the top 10 in scoring: Cleveland (fourth, 31.2 points per game), Baltimore (eighth, 29.8) and Pittsburgh (10th, 29.5).
But all that winning and scoring doesn’t overshadow the defenses in the AFC North. Baltimore leads the NFL in scoring defense (15.2 points per game) and fumble recoveries (7). Pittsburgh is No. 1 in sacks per pass play (14%); and Cleveland is out front in takeaways (12).
Sunday’s most intriguing matchup not involving Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady is Cleveland’s Myles Garrett playing at Pittsburgh in his first game against the Steelers since he got suspended for bashing quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with the quarterback’s own helmet.
Ben Roethlisberger, of course, is back this year, and so are the 4-0 Steelers and, believe it or not, the Browns. Riding a four-game winning streak, Cleveland is 4-1 for the first time since 1994 and looking for its first win in Pittsburgh since 2003.
“We love being in the kitchen,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday when asked about the key matchup. “AFC North ball is in the kitchen. It’s hot in the north.”
Only three times since 2002 has a division had three four-game winners through five weeks.
2020 AFC North: Pittsburgh (4-0), Baltimore (4-1), Cleveland (4-1)
2008 NFC East: Giants (4-0), Dallas (4-1), Washington (4-1)
2002 AFC West: Oakland (4-0), Denver (4-1), San Diego (4-1)