The competition in the AFC is wide-open. The 5-4 Cincinnati Bengals were at the top of the AFC a couple of weeks ago, but are now at the bottom of the AFC North standings. However, Baltimore did the entire division and conference a favor by losing to Miami, 22-10, on Thursday Night Football.
The Ravens embarrassing themselves against the previous 2-7 Dolphins doesn’t make the Bengals losing to the Jets look as bad. Cincinnati blew out Baltimore in Week 7, 41-17, but the favor was returned to them by Cleveland in Week 9 with a 41-16 loss.
To make matters even more confusing, Pittsburgh has the chance to sit at the top of the division standings barring a win on Sunday against Detroit. With how things have gone in the conference, that game isn’t a guaranteed win for the 5-3 Steelers, even against a winless team.
The Browns, who are in third place in the division with a 5-4 record, will take on New England on Sunday in Foxborough. Baker Mayfeld threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns in last Sunday’s win, but will be without running backs Nick Chubb and Demetric Felton this weekend. Both players are on the COVID-19 reserve list. If Mayfield finds himself working through any shoulder issues, he won’t be able to rely on Cleveland’s star running back.
Cincinnati is on its bye week, so fans have the perfect opportunity to sit back and watch the AFC North drama unravel in real-time.
Cincinnati Bengals being last in the AFC North isn’t as bad as it sounds
Let’s go out on a limb and say that both the Steelers and Browns lose on Sunday. Cleveland would fall behind the Bengals with a 5-5 record and Pittsburgh’s record would match Cincinnati’s 5-4 record. The Bengals can’t control how either team will play, but it would make the team’s back-to-back losses entering the bye week a bit more bearable.
The Steelers battled to the final second with the 3-5 Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, and the Lions are hungry for a win. It’s assumed that Pittsburgh will breeze past Detroit to the top of the divisional standings, but it’s not going to be that simple. After all, weren’t the Ravens supposed to leave South Florida with a 7-3 record? We all know how that turned out.
The Patriots are 5-4 and have arguably the best rookie quarterback from the 2021 draft class. Other than their 28-13 loss to the Saints, New England lost its other three games by a combined nine points. Bill Belichick has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, so it wouldn’t be much of a shock if New England beat the Browns.
If Cincinnati comes back from its bye week and isn’t in last place, that’d be a good morale boost. Anything can happen in the NFL. Bengals fans, it’s okay to set your allegiance to the side for this week. Cross your fingers and hope that Detroit and New England come up victorious in Week 10.