The Bengals won Sunday, clinching their fifth consecutive playoff berth, but despite an early lead, the Broncos couldn't beat the Steelers. That means the Bengals will have to win at least one more game to clinch the division title. Meanwhile the Ravens and Browns are (predictably) failing to pull off upsets against playoff teams, but that isn't hurting their draft position.
Here are the AFC North standings after Week 14.
The Baltimore Ravens (4-10) lost to the Kansas City Chiefs (9-5), 14-34
Ravens have a few diamonds in the rough
The Ravens may have found a complementary receiver for Joe Flacco next season in Kamar Aiken. I wouldn't go as far to say he's special, but every team in the NFL needs three competent receiving options in order to be competitive offensively, and he could be one of those for Baltimore. That's something they will definitely need if Steve Smith Sr. sticks with his retirement plan. The defensive side of the ball was highlighted by Za'Darius Smith and Brent Urban who had combined sacks. It is really the only thing the Ravens can hold onto at this point in such an unfortunate season for them. The Bengals also snagged LB/DE Chris Carter today who the Bengals released last week to make room for quarterback Keith Wenning's promotion from the practice squad.
Baltimore's loss is a draft win
The Ravens lost Sunday, and it wasn't even close. However, because the Chargers beat the Dolphins, the Ravens moved up to the third overall selection in April's draft. They now sit behind only the Titans and Browns. Unfortunately for them, the Titans are likely to draft the best available player since they have their quarterback of the future in Marcus Mariota. No one knows what the Browns are ever going to do, so I'm not going to dive too hard into that. It is possible that they bypass taking a quarterback again this season. No matter who the Titans and Browns pick though it would be hard to imagine the Ravens not knocking their pick out of the park.
The Cleveland Browns (3-11) lost to the Seattle Seahawks (9-5), 13-30
Where is the help in Cleveland?
After the first drive the Cleveland Browns were done playing football. Johnny Manziel played well considering he was going up against Seattle's defense, but he could have played better if his supporting cast wasn't so terrible. First, Cameron Erving was forced into action and didn't play very well. Then the receivers recorded five drops on the day, including two from Terrelle Pryor. Duke Johnson was the Browns best offensive weapon. He recorded 46 rushing yards on only four carries and 39 more yards on 5 catches. Gary Barnidge had a touchdown, but didn't provide anything else of note to the game. And, Cleveland's defense couldn't get off the field as Seattle was 9/12 on third down, a 75% conversion rate.
Browns will be drafting early
The Browns currently hold the second overall pick, and they look like they deserve it. It is easy to expect some wholesale changes this offseason from the Browns. Whether it be a coaching change, a General Manager change, or both something needs to change for Cleveland. There have been no signs of improvement all season, and if they don't change something, it will be pretty hard to believe that whoever they take second overall would be able to turn this team in the right direction.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) beat the Denver Broncos (10-4), 34-27
Pittsburgh Steelers take control in second half
The first half of the game between the Steelers and Broncos was all about Denver. Outside of the Broncos fumbling their first offensive play, and the Steelers turning it into a touchdown, the Broncos handled the Steelers. They forced turnovers, capitalized on mental errors and went into the half winning 27-10. But after halftime, the Steelers turned everything upside down. The Broncos' offense failed to get going, and they never scored in the second half. Meanwhile the Steelers scored 24 straight points. Ben Roethlisberger even threw an incredibly dumb interception to give Denver the ball inside Pittsburgh territory with two minutes to play, but the Broncos couldn't capitalize on that. It was the second week in a row that the Broncos seemed to stall in the second half and let the other team steal the victory. It was also another dominating performance by Antonio Brown who had 189 yards on 16 catches as well as two touchdowns.
Playoffs inevitable for Pittsburgh
In the comment section of the last State of the AFC North, commenter Denimcurtain pointed out that the Steelers actually controlled their own destiny and would make the playoffs if the Chiefs, Jets, and Steelers all won out. Tie breakers get super complicated sometimes, but because the Steelers and Jets have the same conference record, the next tiebreaker is common opponents. That means when the Steelers barely beat the Raiders, it gave them the advantage as the Jets lost to the Raiders earlier this season. Either way, it's hard to believe that the Jets are going to beat the Patriots this week since they are still playing for that number one overall seed. The Steelers won their last two challenging games of the season and get to close out with Baltimore and Cleveland, so unless something crazy happens, it looks like the Steelers will be making their way into the postseason and very well could play the Bengals sooner or later.