While the Cincinnati Bengals managed to get themselves out of the cellar of the AFC North, there is some bad news. For the first time since the 2020 season, the Bengals will not be the AFC North champions. No team has won the AFC North three straight years in its entire existence.
So, how did we get here? Let's dive into how the AFC North teams did this weekend.
The Bengals won their third straight game, moving to 8-6 on the year but their rocky start has come back to bite them, as they're eliminated from winning the AFC North. The Ravens and Browns are the only two teams still alive to win the division.
The Ravens played in Jacksonville on Sunday Night Football and came away with an important victory. That win clinched a playoff spot for Baltimore and they're currently the one-seed in the AFC playoffs. The Ravens do have games against the 49ers and Dolphins in two of their final three games so it won't be a cakewalk to the finish line for them by any means.
Meanwhile, the Browns continue to find crazy ways to win, barely edging out the Bears on Sunday afternoon to collect their ninth win of the season. I don't know how the Browns keep doing this but more power to them I guess. It's hard to win in the NFL and the Browns are finding ways to do so despite starting their fourth different quarterback.
The Steelers were the only team in the division to lose their game and they're now 7-7 and in last place in the division. Here are the standings.
AFC North standings after Week 15
- Baltimore Ravens (11-3)
- Cleveland Browns (9-5)
- Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
The Bengals and Steelers play in Week 16, so they'll either be tied for the third-place spot again (though the Bengals would be in last by default), or Cincinnati can gain two games on the Steelers. The Browns and Texans play in a showdown that has massive Wild Card implications. The Ravens travel to San Francisco for a date with the 49ers on Christmas night.
The Bengals, at best, can finish 11-6 on the year, but that still wouldn't be good enough for them to win the division due to the Ravens sweeping them and not being able to finish with a record worse than 11-6. The Browns still have a shot at winning the AFC North by winning out and hoping that the Ravens lose out.
The Bengals had a nice run at the top of the division but not winning the AFC North isn't the end all be all. They're still in a playoff spot right now and have a manageable schedule down the stretch. All hope is not lost, my friends.