We round up what's going on in the AFC North ahead of a big weekend for the top two teams in the division.
Baltimore Ravens (4-8) vs Seattle Seahawks (7-5): Sunday 1:00 P.M.
Baltimore hasn't been adding players to Injured Reserve as often as they were earlier this season, but they are still likely going to be missing quite a few players when it comes time to take on the Seahawks. Matt Schaub, Eugene Monroe, and Crockett Gillmore all will likely miss Sunday's action. That means Jimmy Clausen may be suiting up for the Ravens on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Seahawks will be without Marshawn Lynch but that only means Thomas Rawls will be the lead back. The Ravens are looking likely to be 4-9 by Sunday night.
Looking at the schedule before the season, many would've predicted this week's matchup to be a good game, but with the Ravens injuries it will be far from that. The Seahawks have had some injuries as well, but they have handled them up to this point. It seems like Russell Wilson has only gotten better since Jimmy Graham has gone down, and Rawls has been rumbling ever since Lynch has been forced to miss time. The Ravens though look to be without their backup quarterback, Schaub, who was helping opposing defenses more than anyone. The only bright spot for Baltimore during these last few games has been Javorius Allen, but he likely won't have much opportunity against this Seattle run defense that will be keying in on him. Overall the Ravens have little more than a snow balls chance against this Seattle team that has been on a tear as of late.
Cleveland Browns (2-10) vs San Francisco 49ers (4-8): Sunday 1:00 P.M.
The Browns are actually in the news for something positive this week. They managed to extend the contract of Gary Barnidge, who has been a glimmer of hope for this team all season. It even seems to be a team friendly deal as initial reports had it in the range of $12 million over three years. That wouldn't be too bad of a price tag especially if he can keep up what he's been doing. Barnidge currently has 60 catches, 817 yards, and seven touchdowns on the season. He is easily leading all Browns in all of those categories.
The Wall Street Journal made a list of the NFL's most unwatchable teams, and somehow the Browns couldn't even win the top spot on that list. I have to suspect that Johnny Manziel starting the rest of the season elevates them slightly, but I couldn't name a team I'd rather not watch. Seriously, look at what the Titans and Jaguars managed last week. That's exciting stuff, and they are two of the worst teams in the NFL. The 49ers might be the only team that could give them a run for their money. Who wants to watch Blaine Gabbert and Shaun Draughn lead an offense? Probably the same people who want to watch Manziel run for his life with no help around him on offense while people say he can't play football.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-2)
The Steelers are at full health for Sunday's matchup with the Bengals after every player was a full participant in Friday's practice. This seems to be the perfect time for them given their upcoming schedule. Obviously they play the Bengals this week, but after that they play the Broncos. Two huge games in a row are on deck for the Steelers as every game seems to matter more and more for them as they look to break into the Wild Card race.
It is easy to see why this game gives the experts trouble. The Steelers are getting hot at the right time and are desperate to keep pace in the Wild Card race. The Bengals are currently sitting with the No. 1 seed in the AFC and know a win would clinch the AFC North division and a home game in the playoffs. There is obviously quite a bit on the line for both teams. The Steelers also have revenge on their mind since the Bengals dealt them a huge loss at home earlier in the season, not to mention knocked out their star running back, Le'Veon Bell, for the season. Both teams have big names on both sides of the ball and know each other well. Two of the best receiving corps will go at it highlighted by A.J. Green and Antonio Brown. In a game where both teams are so talented it will likely come down to field position and turnovers. Whoever can win those battles will probably win a very close game.