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AFC North Preview, Week 4: Ravens & Bengals in for a tough matchup

Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)

After notching their first win of the season against the New York Jets on Sunday, the Bengals have to turn around on a short week to face the 3-0 Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football as a 4-point favorite at home.

Not all was good for Cincinnati following their 27-13 victory, though, as it was discovered that defensive tackle DJ Reader suffered a knee injury that is expected to sideline him for an “extended period of time,” according to The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Kelsey Conway.

In more positive news, running back Joe Mixon is expected to play on Thursday after being a limited participant in Monday’s practice due to an ankle injury. The star running back was a full participant both Tuesday and Wednesday. Wide receiver Tee Higgins (toe), cornerback Eli Apple (ankle), tight end Hayden Hurst (groin), and linebacker Germaine Pratt (knee) were also full participants during Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices after being limited on Monday. Offensive tackle La’el Collins was a full participant on Wednesday after missing practice on Monday and Tuesday with a back injury. The starting right tackle is listed as questionable against the Dolphins.

Following their return to form on Sunday, the Bengals will look to hand the red-hot Dolphins their first loss of the season on primetime television. Miami wide receiver Tyreek Hill had some words for cornerback Eli Apple ahead of their meeting.

Their rivalry dates back to last season, when Cincinnati won both matchups against the Kansas City Chiefs, including in the AFC Championship game to advance to the Super Bowl.

Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

The Ravens rebounded from their Week 2 meltdown with a convincing 37-26 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday. Baltimore returns home now to host the Buffalo Bills as 3-point underdogs in a showdown featuring two of the MVP favorites at quarterback.

Baltimore also exited their victory with a major injury to a key defensive tackle as Head Coach John Harbaugh revealed on Wednesday that Michael Pierce suffered a torn biceps during the game. Pierce will make a decision whether to have season-ending surgery or to play through the injury.

On Thursday, Pierce posted a photo suggesting he will undergo the surgery, meaning he will miss the remainder of the season.

That is not all, though, as offensive tackle Patrick Mekari exited Sunday’s game with an ankle sprain. Mekari was the team’s third option at left tackle, as Ronnie Stanley has yet to return to the field and Ja’Wuan James suffered a torn Achilles in Week 1. Rookie fourth-rounder Daniel Faalele, a career right tackle in college, stepped in to finish the game against New England. Faalele will be in line to face defensive end Von Miller this week if Stanley is unable to suit up. Harbaugh indicated that it is possible for Stanley to make his season debut against the Bills after the former All-Pro was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice — the first time this season he was listed as such.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson will look to continue his dominant start to the season in a likely shootout against fellow 2018 first-round pick and MVP candidate Josh Allen. Baltimore’s defense could receive some much-needed help at outside linebacker this week as the recently signed Jason Pierre-Paul has a chance to make his debut in the purple and black on Sunday.

Cleveland Browns (2-1)

After securing a divisional win in Week 3 on Thursday Night Football, the Browns will now travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons as 1.5-point favorites.

Cleveland received terrifying news this past week when it was reported that All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett was involved in a car accident. Thankfully, Garrett and the other passenger in the vehicle did not suffer serious injuries. Garrett’s availability for Week 4 is unknown at the moment after sustaining a shoulder sprain, biceps strain, and minor lacerations.

In other injury news, Jacob Phillips will start at middle linebacker in place of Anthony Walker Jr., who suffered a torn quad tendon in Week 3. The 2020 third-round pick out of LSU will take over the responsibility of wearing the green dot on defense now.

Offensive guard Joel Bitonio (biceps), defensive tackle Taven Bryan (hamstring), defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (knee), offensive tackle Joe Haeg (concussion), linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (groin), and cornerback Denzel Ward (back, ribs), and Garrett all missed practice on Wednesday. Head Coach Kevin Stefanski did not rule any of the aforementioned players out during Wednesday’s press conference.

The Browns need as many of their injured defensive players as possible to suit up on Sunday when they face a Falcons offense loaded with playmakers, including tight end Kyle Pitts, running back Cordarrelle Patterson, and rookie first-round wide receiver Drake London.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)

The Steelers dropped a divisional game on the road in Week 3 in Cleveland and will now host the Jets at home as 3-point favorites.

Pittsburgh will continue to move forward with quarterback Mitch Trubisky at the helm instead of making a switch to rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett despite their offensive struggles to start the season. Head Coach Mike Tomlin shot down the possibility of making the switch following their Week 3 defeat.

Rookie wide receiver George Pickens remains a hot topic, as his involvement in the offense has been minimal to this point. The Georgia star showed what he can do against the Browns with the world watching on Thursday Night Football with one of the most spectacular catches you will see.

Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring) was the only player to miss practice on Wednesday. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (concussion), offensive lineman Kevin Dotson (ankle), and punter Pressley Harvin (hip) were all listed as full participants.

Second-year quarterback Zack Wilson is expected to make his season debut for New York against the Steelers this Sunday. Wilson will replace the veteran Joe Flacco after missing the first three weeks of the season due to a bone bruise and meniscus tear suffered in the preseason.

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