The Bengals remain on top of the AFC North even after an unfortunate loss. They should have a bounce back game against the 49ers this week, but that win alone won't be enough to clinch the division title for the Bengals. Cincinnati will need a little help from another top AFC team, the Broncos, to knock off the Steelers in Pittsburgh to clinch the division and a home game in the playoffs for the Bengals.
The Baltimore Ravens (4-9) vs the Kansas City Chiefs (8-5)
Ravens hit a new low
This week the Ravens signed Ryan "if I'm not starting I'm not going to London" Mallett to a two year deal. It is becoming obvious that Matt Schaub isn't a viable backup in the NFL anymore, so the Ravens are hoping Ryan Mallett will be able to beat him out for that job in 2016. Ultimately though Mallett hasn't done much so far in his career to show he can come in and win games in the NFL, especially without talent surrounding him.
Ravens can hurt the Steelers again this season
The Ravens have wrangled up four wins this season, and one of their bigger ones was the Thursday night victory over the Steelers that has come to mean quite a bit in the standings at this point in the season as the Steelers remain out of the playoffs currently because of it. The Steelers' destiny remains in the Ravens' hands for the rest of the season as well. The Ravens' next three opponents are the Chiefs, Steelers, and Bengals. All three games hold direct ties to the Steelers' playoff hopes. The game against the Steelers is obviously under the Steelers' control, and by the finale against the Bengals, the Steelers might not be able to take the division anymore, but the Ravens remain in an interesting spot this week. Now obviously the Ravens won't be taking a dive, but a loss helps the Ravens quite a bit as well as hurts the Steelers. The Ravens currently hold the fourth overall pick, but with three other teams at (4-9) and facing top teams the Ravens could deal a massive blow to their draft standings with a win. Obviously losing to the Chiefs keeps Kansas City ahead of Pittsburgh in the Wild Card race, even if the Steelers beat the Broncos.
The Cleveland Browns (3-10) at the Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
Russell Wilson will show Pettine that he is 'elite'
The Browns' head coach had some comments about Russell Wilson this week, and while their context is murky, Mike Pettine would've been better off sticking to a more politically correct answer. Here is a pro tip on the house: don't get involved in an argument about which quarterbacks are elite. It is 100 percent opinion based and often fueled by bias. However, coaches gain nothing by trying to engage in these arguments about a player he is about to face.
Josh Gordon is an enigma
We have been here before with Gordon. He says and does the right things to make you believe he has turned a corner, until he slips up again and blames everyone else. Here's what he's saying now. ""After the suspension was announced, in a sense, I was kind of relieved. I was distraught and embarrassed, but I was like, man, I've been ripping and running too much, too fast. I needed to slow down. I'm glad that someone gave me a swift kick in the ass to let me know what's real and what's not," Gordon said.
There are many opinions on Gordon's situation and how the NFL handled it. It didn't help they screwed up the Ray Rice decision at the same time, but the fact is Gordon has repeatedly broken the NFL's rules. Gordon has displayed how talented he is as he led the NFL in receiving yards in 2013 after only playing 14 games. Then he managed to get suspended again... and again. Personally I have no pity for Gordon or the situation he has put himself in. It is a privilege to play in the NFL and every year we see a player whose career ends in an instant. The NFL has showed that, if you're a talented enough player, it is a league of second, and even third or fourth, chances. Gordon can return to the Browns next season, and pending his grievance, he could become free agent in 2017. It would be hard to believe he would leave a team that has stood by him through all of this, but then again, Gordon has done quite a few unbelievable things on and off the field.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) vs the Denver Broncos (10-3)
Steelers holding out hope for Pouncey
The Steelers are keeping the door open for Maurkice Pouncey to return this season. Originally he was placed on IR with a designation after breaking his fibula in the preseason, but an infection complicated things leading to another surgery and doubt of a return at all. The current line has played admirably in his absence, sitting in the above average area of sacks allowed, but some of that can be contributed to the amount of quick passes the Steelers like to run. Still bringing him back during a key game could be risky. He could upset the cohesive unit they have assembled, or it could be even better. It will remain something to monitor the rest of the season.
What the Steelers are hoping for from other teams
The Steelers are set to take on the Broncos this week at home. Denver is fresh off a disappointing outing against the Raiders. The Denver defense against the Steelers' offense is getting a majority of the publicity, but the Broncos' offense against the Steelers' defense could very well decide this game. Even if the Steelers pull out the win they'll be reduced to cheerleaders while waiting to see if they'll be able to gain control of their destiny again. The Jets are set to take on the Cowboys, and that game seems to be pretty straight forward. The Chiefs and Ravens game was discussed earlier, and the Ravens' chances haven't gotten any better since I wrote that part. Finally the Bengals will be traveling to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. It will be the first time the Bengals take the field without Dalton suited up as the starter, but AJ McCarron couldn't have picked a better team to start against as the 49ers are fresh off a Johnny Manziel whooping. Still, they play the games for a reason, and if the Steelers win and one of those teams pulls of an upset we could see the Steelers in the driver's seat for the Wild Card race.