AFC North Breakdown: Week 14


(David Wellman writes for Stripe Hype which is FSB’s Bengals blog. Representing the rest of the AFC North are The Ebony Bird, Dawg Pound Daily, and Nice Pick Cowher)

Week 14 was same-old-same-old in the AFC North. The Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns continued to disappoint, Baltimore continued its semi-surprising solid season under a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback, and Pittsburgh continue to find a way to win as — by all appearances — the Steelers cruise to another AFCN crown.

Baltimore Ravens (9-4):

Looking Back: Safety Ed Reed had the Washington Redskins for a late-night snack Sunday evening, generating two interceptions as the Ravens beat the sagging ‘Skins 24-10. Baltimore’s defense held the Washington club to just 62 rushing yards while the offense piled up nearly 150 of its own to go with a mediocre 10-for-21 for 134, a score and a pick, night for Joe Flacco. The Ravens currently hold one of the two AFC wild card slots, with three games — against Pittsburgh, Dallas and Jacksonville — to go.

Looking Forward: Baltimore, now winners of three straight, hosts division-leading Pittsburgh this weekend. A win would tie the two clubs overall at 10-4, while giving Baltimore a slight edge in the division tiebreaker, 5-1 to Pittsburgh’s 4-1. Pitt’s remaining division game is against Cleveland.

Cincinnati Bengals (1-11-1):

Looking Back: The Bengals gave the misfiring Colts an opportunity to tune up their act heading into the playoffs (Indy currently holds the other AFC wild card spot), which Indianapolis gratefully accepted. 35-3 losers, Cincinnati has no positives to carry away except for some experience gained by young players like defensive tackle Jason Shirley. The Bengals have been outscored 16-96 in their last three games and look like a lock for the No. 2 pick in next April’s draft.

Looking Forward: The Bengals come home to face the fast-fading Washington Redskins, who have lost their last two to the Giants and Ravens, fallen to 7-6, and are on the outside looking in in the NFC’s wild card scrum. The Bengals have been a thorn in the NFC East’s side all season, losing to the Giants by 3, taking the Cowboys to OT, and grinding out a tie against Philadelphia. But with their offense moribund, they appear unlikely to pose much of threat to the win-needy ‘Skins.

Cleveland Browns (4-9):

Looking Back: Like Cincinnati, Cleveland is done. With both Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn hurt (and Kellen Winslow out to boot) third-string QB Ken Dorsey could generate nothing against the Titans last weekend, going 22 for 43 for 150 yards and an interception. The Browns gained another 31 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, their defense gave up 226 combined yards to Tennessee RBs Chris Johnson and LenDale White. In the wake of the 28-9 loss, the name of Marty Schottenheimer is being floated as the next head coach of the Browns.

Looking Forward: The Browns travel to Philadelphia next weekend to face the on-again, off-again Eagles, who were on again last weekend against the Jets, winning 20-14. Like Washington, the Eagles are fighting to stay in the NFC wild card picture.

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3):

Looking Back: For three quarters it looked like the Steelers would fall to the Cowboys, but the defense rode to the rescue of a sputtering offense with a pick six by CB Deshea Townsend inside two minutes to win the game 20-14. Dallas stuffed the Steelers’ running game, allowing just 53 yards (exclusive of 17 by Ben Roethlisberger) and Big Ben himself could manage only a single TD toss. Unlike New England the previous week, Dallas only turned the ball over three times, not five, but the final pick was enough to seal the win for the Steelers.

Looking Forward: Pittsburgh, as noted above, goes to Baltimore in one of the week’s premiere games. Their first meeting this season ended with Pittsburgh kicking a 46 yard field goal in overtime to win the game. With the playoffs and seeding (the Steelers are currently the second seed, giving them a coveted first-round bye) at stake, expect a second tough contest.