Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
The paper reported that Polamalu is "fine" and was "clear and lucid by halftime but kept out because of league rules." Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will likely address Polamalu's status at his news conference today.
The 2010 NFL defensive player of the year, Polamalu left during the opening series following a low, head-first hit on 6-foot-6, 290-pound Chiefs tackle Steve Maneri. Polamalu's head struck Maneri's knee, which forced him to the sideline.
Tomlin said after Sunday night's game that the team held out Polamalu as a precaution. This is the second time this season that Polamalu has left a game following a blow to the head. He didn't miss a game following that injury.
Hensley's slant: Not surprised that Polamalu is returning immediately to the field. He still had his helmet on during the first quarter, which was an indication that he wanted back into the game. While the Steelers are not classifying it as a concussion, any head injury is serious especially when it's a player who has Polamalu's long history with that type of trauma. My AFC North blog yesterday suggested that Polamalu needs to start thinking about his future.
BENGALS: Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told reporters earlier this season, when the defense was ranked No. 1, to wait and ask him around Thanksgiving about what he thinks of the unit. Well, the Bengals' team website took Zimmer up on that and approached him about the Bengals defense, which now ranks No. 5. "I don’t think we’re great, but I think we’re a solid defensive team that typically plays hard, plays smart," Zimmer said. “I still don’t think we put fear in anyone’s heart when they see us. I don’t think we’re the ’85 Bears. I think they think we’re a sound fundamental defensive team that’s going to give you a full day’s work." Hensley's slant: Zimmer might be right that the Bengals don't strike fear into teams, but they certainly make them sweat. Cincinnati gets after quarterbacks (Geno Atkins is the best pass-rushing defensive tackle that no one has heard of) and turns takeaways into touchdowns. This defense has proven over the first 12 weeks that it's playoff-caliber.
BROWNS: Two defensive starters could miss significant time. Outside linebacker Scott Fujita will undergo surgery on his broken right hand this week and will likely be placed on injured reserve for the final five games, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Also, Emmanuel Stephens, who started the past two games at defensive end, suffered a pectoral injury and could be sidelined for an extended period. Hensley's slant: Fujita might not be a playmaking linebacker, but he was the voice of experience on the Browns' young defense. He does all the little things that don't appear up on statistics, from helping middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson make calls to getting everyone lined up in the right spot. This is a tough blow for the NFL's No. 6 defense.
RAVENS: Head coach John Harbaugh said the team will "turn over every stone" to figure out why Baltimore was upset by Tennessee, Jacksonville and Seattle after emotional wins. The Ravens know they can't afford another loss in this playoff race. Baltimore is currently tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North and holds a one-game lead on Cincinnati. "We expect it to be a tight race," Harbaugh said via The Baltimore Sun. "We just want to uphold our end of the bargain. We can't be concerned with what the other teams do. We have to be concerned with what we do. It's this week. That's what you have to focus on. This week becomes everything. [It] becomes all-consuming in a tight race like this." Hensley's slant: If the Ravens had previously upheld their end against Tennessee, Jacksonville and Seattle, they would be the clear-cut favorite for the top seed in the AFC. Now, another letdown could cost Baltimore a shot at a first-round bye. Inconsistency has been the Ravens' biggest weakness all season.