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Around the NFL: Divisional Rivals Heat Up, Quarterbacks Under Pressure

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Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap early-week action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the Pittsburgh Steelers perspective. 

AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 p.m., KDKA-TV

With the Steelers currently holding the lead in the division, Sunday’s matchup will be crucial for the Ravens, as they try to keep pace in the AFC North against the rival Bengals.

Baltimore had lofty expectations entering the year, but still seem like a mystery through four games. They are 3-1, but two of their wins are against bottom-feeders in the Texans and Washington, while their lone loss was a thrashing at the hands of the Chiefs on Sept. 28.

Still, the Ravens’ dominant rushing attack has carried over from a year ago. They own the third-best rushing offense in the league, and have continued to set up quarterback Lamar Jackson in the passing game, who has thrown three touchdowns on play-action passes already this season.

Though their record may not show it, the Bengals and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow have been looked impressive at times. The No. 1 pick is second in the league with 116 completions, and he is the first rookie in NFL history to throw for over 300 yards and three-straight games.

The Ravens will have to return to their roots to earn their second division win, flexing their muscles on the ground against the Bengals’ 27th-ranked rush defense and keeping the ball away from last year’s Heisman Trophy winner.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional

In their first game since the firing of head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien, the Texans will host the division rival Jaguars in search of their first win of the season.

Outgunned and outmanned, Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson has been under constant duress through the first four weeks of the season. The Texans have allowed 16 sacks this season, the most in the league. Watson has been pressured on 31% of his dropbacks. Still, he has tried too make the most of his situation so far, passing for six touchdowns and 273 yards per game.

Watson should get a break this week facing a non-existent Jacksonville pass rush that has record just four sacks, the fewest in the league. The Jaguars have also surrendered the highest completion percentage in the league at 77% and the fourth-highest quarterback rating at 112.6.

If Jacksonville is going to struggle pressuring Watson, they will have to generate takeaways. They have three interceptions on the season, while Watson has tossed three of his own and fumbled twice. Takeaways could be the key for the Jaguars to keep Houston and their young star winless.

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m., WPGH-TV

Following Steelers-Eagles, Pittsburgh fans will be treated to an extra helping of NFC East action when the Cowboys host the Giants.

Winless on the season, the Giants and second-year quarterback Daniel Jones are in desperate need of a break offensively. They will get on in the form of a putrid Dallas defense.

While the anemic Giants offense is last in the league in yards (1,112), points (47) and touchdowns (3), the Cowboys defense has been equally as bad. Dallas has allowed the most points in the league at 36.5 per game, and the third-most yards at 1,722. They have only forced two turnovers, the fewest in the NFL.

The Giants defense will in turn have to slow down Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who is putting up historic numbers through four games. Prescott has thrown for over 450 yards in three-straight games, the first to do so in NFL history. His 502 passing yards against the Browns last week set a new career-best. He has also tossed nine touchdown passes and is completing over 68% of his throws.

Unfortunately, Prescott’s dominance has not translated to wins, only magnifying the deficiencies of a struggling Dallas roster. Sunday’s divisional matchup against a struggling Giants team is the perfect opportunity for Prescott’s supporting cast to step up.

Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns, 4:25 p.m., FOX Regional

The Colts and Browns have been two of the biggest surprises through the first quarter of the 2020 season with both clubs sitting at 3-1.

Cleveland’s league-leading rushing attack has garnered the headlines, but it has been their quarterback’s protecting of the football that has led to their hot start. Baker Mayfield was a liability a year ago, throwing 21 interceptions and fumbling six times. He has just two picks and no fumbles so far in 2020.

The Browns’ defense has picked up the slack in the takeaway category, forcing ten already through four games, which leads the NFL. Six of those takeaways have been fumbles recoveries, and star defensive end Myles Garrett has forced three. The former top pick had forced just six career fumbles entering this season.

Quarterback Philip Rivers was the big addition for Indianapolis this offseason, but it has been the Colts’ defense that has made the biggest impact early. They have surrendered the fewest yards and first downs in the league, and own the league’s top pass defense. The Colts have also picked off a league-high seven passes and have allowed just a single rushing score.

With both clubs dominating the turnover battle through four weeks, a costly giveaway could be the deciding factor between these two unexpected contenders.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

Chicago Bears 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional

Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional

Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional

Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m., WPGH-TV

Los Angeles Rams at Washington, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional

Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m., FOX Regional

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots, Monday, 5:00 p.m., ESPN

Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans Saints, Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans, Tuesday, 7:00 p.m., KDKA-TV

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