AFC North: Final Word

» AFC: East | West | North | South » NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker

Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend’s games:

Who is No. 1: Sole possession of first place is on the line Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) travel to play the Baltimore Ravens (3-1). This is the biggest game to date in the AFC North and will set the tone for the first half of the 2009 season. The Ravens and Bengals have split the past six meetings, but Baltimore swept the season series in 2008 in convincing fashion, outscoring the Bengals 51-13.

Palmer vs. Ravens: Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer is one of the few quarterbacks who’ve had consistent success against Baltimore’s stout defense. Palmer is an impressive 6-3 in nine starts against the Ravens. He’s had some of his best days against Ray Lewis and Co., throwing for 2,235 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games. Palmer will need another great performance against Baltimore to catapult Cincinnati into first place in the division.

O-line shuffle: One of the top, young offensive tackle duos probably won't be whole as the Ravens' Jared Gaither is not expected to play Sunday following a recent neck injury. The left tackle’s probable absence will lead to some shuffling. Rookie right tackle Michael Oher will move into Gaither’s spot on the left side, and backup Marshal Yanda will make his first start of the season at right tackle. Oher and Yanda held their own on short notice last week in the second half against the New England Patriots.

Mendy is in: Is there a running back controversy brewing in Pittsburgh? Perhaps. Steelers starting tailback Willie Parker (toe) probably will sit out his second consecutive game against the Detroit Lions (1-3), which means Rashard Mendenhall will get another start. In Mendenhall’s first start in Week 4, the 2008 first-round draft pick rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries, earning AFC player of the week honors. Parker struggled this year when healthy, so if Mendenhall has another big game Sunday against the Lions, a starting job may not be waiting for Parker when he returns.

Different look: How will the offense of the Cleveland Browns look without Braylon Edwards? The Browns made their second significant change in as many weeks, trading the former Pro Bowl receiver to the New York Jets for receiver Chansi Stuckey, reserve linebacker Jason Trusnik and two draft picks. In Week 4, Cleveland benched former starting quarterback Brady Quinn in favor of Derek Anderson and it provided a spark. Now rookie Mohamed Massaquoi will take over Edwards' role as the No. 1 receiver. Massaquoi had a career game in Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati with eight catches for 148 yards. He will start opposite Josh Cribbs or fellow rookie Brian Robiskie.