Steelers and Ravens win, reduce the Bengals lead in the AFC North to two games

Gregory Shamus

We break down what happened on Sunday, preview the rest of Sunday's games and how the standings will look Monday morning.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens won their respective games over the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets on Sunday, taking a half-game bite into Cincinnati's lead -- which now stands at two games.

Pittsburgh began taking control on Antonio Brown's 41-yard touchdown reception with 2:41 remaining in the second quarter. Cleveland advanced the football 26 yards to their 46-yard line, but Troy Polamalu stripped the football away from Chris Ogbonnaya, leading to a Shaun Suisham 32-yard field goal to take a 13-3 lead at the end of the first half.

Pittsburgh added a touchdown midway through the third after an unblocked William Gay dropped Jason Campbell, forcing a fumble that Will Allen returned inside of Cleveland's five-yard line. Pittsburgh took a 20-3 lead on Emmanuel Sanders touchdown.

As for the Ravens, the New York Jets never developed into a realistic threat as their offense was... well, dreadful. Despite having every opportunity to put the game away early -- the Ravens were inside the redzone on four of five first half possessions but only managed three field goals and an interception -- New York remained within striking distance with a nine-point deficit until Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones on a 66-yard strike to take a 19-3 lead late in the third quarter.

UPDATED STANDINGS

WINS LOSSES PCT. GB DIV. CONF.
Cincinnati Bengals 7 4 .636 -- 2-2 5-3
Pittsburgh Steelers 5 6 .455 2 2-1 4-4
Baltimore Ravens 5 6 .455 2 2-2 5-4
Cleveland Browns 4 7 .364 3 2-3 3-5

REMAINING SCHEDULE

Bengals

Week 13 (Dec. 1): at San Diego Chargers
Week 14 (Dec. 8): Indianapolis Colts
Week 15 (Dec. 15): at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday Night Football)
Week 16 (Dec. 22): Minnesota Vikings
Week 17 (Dec. 29: Baltimore Ravens

Steelers

Week 13 (Nov. 28): at Baltimore Ravens (Thanksgiving Night)
Week 14 (Dec. 8): Miami Dolphins
Week 15 (Dec. 15): Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday Night Football)
Week 16 (Dec. 22): at Green Bay Packers
Week 17 (Dec. 29): Cleveland Browns

Ravens

Week 13 (Nov. 28): Pittsburgh Steelers (Thanksgiving Night)
Week 14 (Dec. 8): Minnesota Vikings
Week 15 (Dec. 16): at Detroit Lions (Monday Night Football)
Week 16 (Dec. 22): New England Patriots (Sunday Night Football)
Week 17 (Dec. 29): at Cincinnati Bengals

What's on tap for the rest of the weekend

While the battle for the AFC North title continues, the Bengals have a secondary eye on other teams in the conference.

The 7-3 Indianapolis Colts head to Arizona to play the Cardinals, whose three-game winning streak has earned them a second-place tie in the NFC west at 6-4. Nothing can happen here to improve Cincinnati's seeding. A Colts win improves their record to 8-3, one game over the Bengals. A Colts loss puts them at 7-4, identical to the Bengals, but with a better winning percentage in the conference, the Colts will remain ahead of Cincinnati.

However, Sunday Night Football could change things. If the 7-3 New England Patriots beat the 9-1 Denver Broncos, the Patriots improve to 8-3 -- one game over the Bengals. On the other hand, Cincinnati can improve to the third seed if the Broncos beat New England. They'll have identical 7-4 records, but Cincinnati owns the first tiebreaker due to Cincinnati's week five win over the Patriots.

If the Patriots and Colts win:

  1. Denver Broncos (9-2)
  2. Indianapolis Colts (8-3)
  3. New England Patriots (8-3)
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)

If the Patriots win and the Colts lose:

  1. Denver Broncos (9-2)
  2. New England Patriots (8-3)
  3. Indianapolis Colts (7-4)**
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)**

** Colts win the tiebreaker against Cincinnati based on a better winning percentage in games played against AFC opponents.

If the Broncos win and the Colts win or lose (doesn't affect seeding):

  1. Denver Broncos (10-1)
  2. Indianapolis Colts (8-3/7-4)
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
  4. New England Patriots (7-4)

** Colts win the tiebreaker over the Bengals and Patriots for the second seed due to having the best winning percentage in conference games. Bengals win tiebreaker over the Patriots due to their head-to-head win.

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