Will AFC North go south in playoffs?

Will AFC North go south in playoffs?
January 3, 2013, 1:00 am
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One AFC North team could get hot in the playoffs. According to ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley, that team is not the Ravens.

“Based on the past month, the Bengals look like a team that is ready to make a stronger run than the Ravens,” Hensley wrote. “Few teams have been hotter than the Bengals. Cincinnati has won seven of its past eight games.”

Though he said both teams should win their first-round games this weekend, after that seems less likely — especially for the Ravens. They’re just too banged up.

“It's just unreasonable to think the Ravens can put together a strong run when so many of their star players are limping,” Hensley wrote, citing Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Anquan Boldin and Vonta Leach, among others.

And though he favors how the Bengals have played heading into the postseason — citing that Cincinnati’s defense has allowed just under 13 points over the past eight games — Hensley isn’t predicting the Bengals will go far, either.

“This is a playoff-caliber defense. The offense isn't on the same level,” he said.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been a turnover machine — two fumbles and two interceptions in his last two full games — and inefficient on third down, completing under 50 percent of his passes. Plus, there are questions about how healthy running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is after hurting his hamstring while warming up for the regular-season finale against the Ravens.

Doesn’t sound like the AFC North’s year.