While the Cleveland Browns’ players and coaches have a bye to rest and re-focus for the final seven games of the regular season, their three AFC North Division rivals will be in action this weekend.
As the weekend unfolds, here are several things to keep an eye on:
--New York Giants (6-3, first place in the NFC East) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-5, third place in the AFC North), Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
The Bengals enter Sunday’s game against the reigning Super Bowl champions on a four-game losing streak, which started with a 17-13 home loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Browns continued Cincinnati’s slide with a 34-24 victory over their in-state rivals on Oct. 14 at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Since that loss in Cleveland, the Bengals have also lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers (24-17, on Oct. 21) and Denver Broncos (31-23, Nov. 4). Three of those four losses have been at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Giants come to Cincinnati after winning four of their last five games. However, they suffered a come-from-behind loss to the Steelers, 24-20, at MetLife Stadium last weekend. They have allowed 20 or more points in four of their last five games.
Second-year Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has completed 182-of-285 attempts for 2,130 yards and 14 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. However, he has been sacked 22 times for 126 lost yards through eight games.
Wide receiver A.J. Green has been Dalton’s favorite target this year. In eight games, Green had 51 receptions for 735 yards and eight touchdowns. Seven of those touchdowns have come from Dalton, while the other came on a 73-yard touchdown throw from fellow wide receiver, Mohamed Sanu.
Bengals kicker Mike Nugent has made 14-of-16 field goal attempts, while punter Kevin Huber has pinned 16 of his 37 punts inside the 20-yard line. He averages 46.8 yards per punt.
Returner Brandon Tate has averaged 10.5 yards over 12 punt returns and 27.3 yards over 18 kickoff returns.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning has completed 194-of-318 attempts for 2,426 yards and 12 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He has been sacked only eight times through the first half of the season and carries an 85.5 quarterback rating into Sunday’s game.
Wide receiver Victor Cruz has averaged 12.6 yards over 57 receptions (717 yards) and been on the receiving end of seven touchdowns. Cruz caught five passes for 50 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-27 over the Browns in East Rutherford, N. J., on Oct. 7.
Since being injured earlier in the season, running back Ahmad Bradshaw has responded to lead the team with 618 yards and four touchdowns on 141 carries. In Bradshaw’s absence, Andre Brown carried the load. He averaged 4.8 yards over 53 carries and scored six touchdowns.
Running back David Wilson has been tough on special teams. He has gained 832 yards on 31 kickoff returns and averages 26.8 yards on those returns.
Defensively, the Giants have eight different players with interceptions, including Stevie Brown’s team-best five takeaways.
--Oakland Raiders (3-5, third place in the AFC West) at Baltimore Ravens (6-2, first place in the AFC North), Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Oakland goes to M&T Bank Stadium on the heels of a 42-32 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the O.co Coliseum. However, the Raiders have won two of their last three games, including their last road contest, a 26-16 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 28.
Baltimore, on the other hand, comes in off of a 25-15 win over the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium last Sunday. They have won all four of their home games this season.
Second-year Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer has completed 201-of-330 attempts (60.9 percent) for 2,355 yards and 13 touchdowns against eight interceptions. He has been sacked 14 times, but has an 85.6 quarterback rating.
Brandon Myers has been Palmer’s top target, with 39 catches for 442 yards and two touchdowns. However, Denarius Moore had gained a team-leading 485 yards and caught a Raiders-best four touchdowns on 30 receptions this season.
When they’re not passing the ball, the Raiders hand off to running back Darren McFadden, who has fought through some injury problems as of late to rush for 455 yards and two touchdowns on 139 carries.
Defensively, Philip Wheeler leads the team with 65 total tackles and a pair of forced fumbles. Defensive lineman Richard Seymour has proven to be the Raiders’ best pass-rusher and has three sacks, followed closely by Matt Shaughnessy’s 2.5 quarterback sacks.
On special teams, Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski has converted 19-of-20 field goal attempts this season, including four-of-five from at least 40 yards. Multi-time Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler averages 48.0 yards per punt, has a long kick of 68 yards and seven of his kicks have landed inside the 20-yard line.
In 2012, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco has completed 165 pass attempts for 1,990 yards and 10 touchdowns against six interceptions. He has been pressured into 19 sacks for 118 lost yards.
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin has been Flacco’s top target with 36 catches for 510 yards and one touchdown. Second-year receiver Torrey Smith has 29 receptions for 481 yards and a team-best five touchdown passes.
Running back Ray Rice has gained 622 yards and scored six touchdowns on 131 rushing attempts and is third on the team with 31 catches for 251 yards.
--Kansas City (1-7, fourth place in the AFC West) at Pittsburgh (5-3, second place in the AFC North), Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET.
The Chiefs have yet to hold a lead during regulation and are just 1-3 in road games this season. They have lost five straight games overall, including last Thursday night’s game, 31-13, at the San Diego Chargers.
The Steelers earned a come-from-behind road victory over the Giants last Sunday and have won three straight games dating back to a 24-17 decision over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. They have won all three of their home games this year.
The Chiefs have battled through quarterback changes due to productivity and injury. Matt Cassel started the year and has completed 142-of-235 attempts for 1,549 yards with six touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Former Browns quarterback Brady Quinn was inserted into the starting lineup to replace Cassel and completed 26-of-44 attempts for 213 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
However, a concussion two weeks ago forced Quinn out of the lineup against the Chargers.
Dwayne Bowe has been the Chiefs’ best receiver with 45 catches for 571 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Dexter McCluster has 29 catches for 258 yards with one score.
On 132 carries, running back Jamaal Charles has accounted for 634 yards and two touchdowns, including a 91-yard score in a 27-24 overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes Benz Superdome on Sept. 23.
Defensively, outside linebackers Justin Houston (six) and Tamba Hali (five) have led the Chiefs to a team total of 14 quarterback sacks through eight games. Cornerback Brandon Flowers has two interceptions.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is completing passes at a 67.1 percent pace (200-of-298) for 2,203 yards and 16 touchdowns against four interceptions. He has been sacked 17 times for 97 lost yards, but carries a 101.1 quarterback rating.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace has gained 525 yards and scored five touchdowns on 39 receptions, and Antonio Brown has accounted for 499 yards and one score on a Pittsburgh-best 42 catches.
With the injured Rashard Mendenhall still recovering from knee surgery earlier this year, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer handled the Steelers’ running back duties. Redman gained 274 yards and scored two touchdowns on a team-high 76 attempts, while Dwyer rushed for 299 yards on 58 carries.
Defensively, outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds, as well as inside linebacker Larry Foote, each have three sacks on the season. Foote has a team-best 57 total tackles, including 40 solo stops.
Punter Drew Butler has pinned 13 of his 27 kicks inside the 20-yard line and averaged 43.5 yards this season. In the return game, rookie running back Chris Rainey has averaged 29.1 yards over 20 kickoffs.
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