There is no denying the bevy of injuries that the Browns have endured since the start of the season. Heck, we have not even seen our prized free agent wide receiver (unless you consider street clothes and aviator sunglasses, that is). Outside linebackers dropping like flies, concussions galore, you name it.
But while we sometimes live in a silo, focusing more on our team than others, the rest of the division is beating the living heck out of each other.
The injury to Carson Palmer definitely aided the Browns’ recent victory over the Bengals. Chad Johnson may still not be 100 percent, and the stripes haven’t managed to keep a healthy set of linebackers since James Francis roamed the outside. Palmer says that he wants to return this week against the Cowboys, but there is speculation around the dreaded Tommy John surgery. Not that the Bengals really had a shot at the North, but this definitely does not help the situation.
Which leads us to the Ravens and Steelers. The Ravens were simply overachieving at this point and needed a swift kick in the beak. Though it took an overtime frame for them to record an “L,” every team in the division now has a loss. And though they won the game, Pittsburgh will miss their first round draft choice in Rashard Mendenhall for the season thanks to a shoulder injury. Nineteen carries was all she wrote for the former Illinois star.
This wouldn’t be a huge deal aside from the fact that Willie Parker missed the game with a knee injury, stemming from the game against the Eagles. Oh, and Carey Davis, another running back, is also out with an ankle injury. The Steelers beat reporter has already gone on record to say that Parker is slated to miss week five as well with the sixth week being a bye. So, not only will the Steelers be facing the Jaguars in a few days, they will be going against them with a shoddy-at-best offensive line and a running back named Gary Russell along with veteran Mewelde Moore. Russell was just on the practice squad a few weeks ago, for what it is worth.
Oh, and we can’t forget about the pounding that has been absorbed by Ben Roethlisberger. From KSK, we get this screen grab from last night.
I think that says more than I could at this point.
But back to the Ravens. Last night, Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain each missed a handful of plays with various injuries. Rookie Joe Flacco just threw his first touchdown pass of the season, which is incredible given the fact that they were winning games without this. Sure, the Ravens did it with Trent Dilfer at the helm, but come on. Playing Cincinnati and Cleveland is a great way to build confidence in a rookie. Completing barely half of your passes against Pittsburgh is more like it. Couple all of this with the fact that Todd Heap is definitely not healthy (no catches last night), and this could be a giant flash in the pan.
Do I think that this Browns team is primed to make a run? Not a chance. But I do think that the AFC North is primed to be one of the ugliest divisions by the end of the 2008 football season. Players all over the map are dropping like flies and the schedules are only getting tougher. Baltimore has already had their bye, so they’re in it for the long haul. Thankfully, we get our bye this week, allowing for a small break before the Monday night game against the Giants. Pittsburgh will be crying for their bye by this time next week. And then there’s Cincinnati.
Things aren’t pretty folks. And come seven days from now, there is a good chance that we are a game out of first place. This just goes to show how bad it is out there; at least when it comes to the AFC North…