The AFC North looks more and more like it’s the Bengals’ division to win. While the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns are essentially non-factors in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals both look like they’ll have a good shot at making a Super Bowl run. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, however, the Bengals pulled off a surprising 16-10 comeback upset at Heinz Field on Sunday, and the Steelers’ superstar running back, Le’Veon Bell, is now out for the year.
The Bengals now have a 3.5-game lead on the Steelers and have all but won the AFC North in just seven weeks. It would take a tumultuous fall or an extensive list of injuries to key Bengals players to slow down the team’s momentum at this point; the Bengals will most likely need to win three of their remaining nine games to secure a playoff berth, which seems laughable at this point for a team that is one of only four (or three, depending on whether the Panthers are able to beat the Colts tonight) remaining unbeaten teams through eight weeks.
Meanwhile, the Browns and Ravens both share 2-6 records after a Baltimore win and a Cleveland loss on Sunday. Both teams would have to essentially win out to make it to the playoffs, which is would be a monumental task for either team–and that’s before the Ravens lost Steve Smith for the remainder of the season (and likely his career, if he holds true to his preseason statement).
The Ravens will have a bye in Week 9, while the Steelers face the Raiders and the Browns take on the undefeated Bengals.
With that, let’s look around the AFC North and dissect what happened this past weekend.
Next: Cincinnati Bengals