The Baltimore Ravens find themselves atop the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals, and the two division teams have followed similar paths so far. The Ravens and Bengals both began the season with frustrating openers (although Baltimore's showing was more of an embarrassment). They returned home in Week 2 to knock off AFC North opponents and delivered impressive performances Sunday against two preseason Super Bowl contenders. The Ravens roughed up the Houston Texans, 30-9, while the Bengals came back from 16 points down to beat the Green Bay Packers, 34-30.
As a result, the Ravens and Bengals are both 2-1, and most expected these teams to fight for the top spot in 2013. The surprising twist so far in the AFC North is the rest of the division. The Cleveland Browns won in Minnesota just days after trading running back Trent Richardson, and the Pittsburgh Steelers took sole possession of last place by losing at home to the Chicago Bears. The Steelers started 0-3 for just the second time in the last 25 years (2000 season was the other time).
Here's your Wake-up caw ...
The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston says the Ravens made a big statement in beating up the Texans. "The Ravens were successful last week against the Cleveland Browns , but those are the Browns," Preston wrote. "They get and deserve no respect. These were the Texans, one of the top three most balanced teams in the NFL along with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers."
It was another tough day for the offense, John Eisenberg of the team's official website notes. "Getting (Ray) Rice and (Jacoby) Jones back should help, as will playing seven of their next nine games against teams that didn’t make the playoffs in 2012," Eisenberg wrote. "What’s crucial going forward is that the Ravens don’t turn the ball over while they continue to try to figure it all out, and that (Joe) Flacco continues to battle the tough circumstances and make some big throws every week."
Daryl Smith proves to be the right man to replace Ray Lewis, according to USA Today. Smith's 37-yard interception return for a touchdown was the game-changing play on the day Lewis was inducted into the Ring of Honor. "Yeah, definitely, I mean, on Ray Lewis day, and we were able to get the win like we did today -- that was huge,'' Smith said, smiling. "I guess it's sort of like a dream. You catch it. And it's just kind of hazy."
Backup nose tackle Terrence Cody suffered a left knee sprain in the first quarter and didn't return. "It does not look to be a long-term sprain,” coach John Harbaugh said, via the team's website. “We’ll know more (Monday). It could be this week, but more likely, it will be a couple of weeks.” Shaun Draughn, who is the No. 2 running back until Rice (hip) returns, went down with a high ankle sprain.
Let's just say linebacker Terrell Suggs and safety Ed Reed aren't the best of friends. According to Reed, Suggs suggested to the safety that he had arrived trying to ruin the return of Ray Lewis. "I know the guy's a weirdo," Reed said of Suggs. Here's a full recap of Reed's return, courtesy of ESPN's Tania Ganguli.
Preston of The Baltimore Sun thinks Lewis did the right thing by not doing his signature pregame dance. "It was a good move by Lewis, a nice touch of class," Preston wrote. "I think (John) Harbaugh appreciated it as well."
Just click here to watch Lewis' induction into the Ring of Honor. "Baltimore, what we did together -- not once, but twice," Lewis said. "This city is what love is all about."