The Steelers' loss to the Ravens on Sunday clinched the division title for the Bengals, which was extra nice after the Bengals lost on Monday. Now at 9-6 the Steelers need the Jets to lose to the Bills next week, and they also have to beat the Browns next week. The Ravens are flying high after completing their sweep of the Steelers and the Browns kept it close with the Chiefs, but they couldn't seem to get out of their own way.
Here are the current AFC North standings after Monday Night Football, though the title is officially the Bengals'.
Baltimore Ravens (5-10) beat Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6), 20-17
Ravens play spoilers
The Ravens, without Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith Sr., or Terrell Suggs, managed to pull off what might be the upset of the season. The Steelers were widely considered the team getting hot at the right time and the most dangerous team going into the playoffs, but the Ravens may have ended all of that. Division games in the NFL are always weird. It seems that even when they look like a mismatch on paper they end up being close. Either way it looked like the Ravens came to play with an intensity that we haven't seen this season.
Instead of their usual starters, the likes of Kamar Aiken, Javorius Allen, and even Ryan Mallett stepped up and contributed in a big way on offense for the Ravens. Not to mention, their defense played lights out nearly all game forcing two Ben Roethlisberger interceptions that ended up shifting the entire game. The Ravens' secondary had been torched all season, but the game plan to take away the deep ball from Roethlisberger and company did just enough to lead to the win. As they always say, "that's why you play the game."
Plenty of blame to go around after a huge loss
Pittsburgh fans aren't happy with Mike Tomlin. The head coach always seems to be the scapegoat of most of their losses, and most of the time, he's worthy of the blame. The reality though is the same thing they praise him for is what they can't stand about him. His all or nothing mentality is what sets him apart, and when it works he looks like a genius, but when it doesn't... well you get the idea.
Earlier in the season, you saw it in a far more crucial time with their win over the Chargers, but Sunday they failed on a fourth down try early in the first quarter, and the Ravens drove 75 yards immediately following that play for a touchdown. However, the scapegoat for this game is much bigger. Roethlisberger shoulders most of the blame from the loss. He rarely dropped back and looked like he didn't know what was going on, which you can credit the Ravens with scheme wise, but his two interceptions were on awful decisions. They both looked like they were being thrown right to the defender. The Steelers could have still overcome all of that though on Sunday, if Martavis Bryant didn't drop a deep bomb from Roethlisberger on the final possession which would've put them in field goal range. Although in the NFL, you win as a team, and this week the Steelers lost as a team.
Steelers lose control, but not hope
The scenarios for the Steelers to get into the playoffs are simple. It all starts with them beating the Browns next week. You would think that would be a given, but after this week you never know. If they lose they will be eliminated from the playoffs and the Jets will clinch the final spot. If they win they need the Jets have to lose to the Bills in Week 17 to claim back a spot in Wild Card weekend.
Cleveland Browns (3-12) lost to the Kansas City Chiefs (10-5), 17-13
Pettine might survive the season after all
It appears the Browns will go forward with Mike Pettine as their head coach despite two miserable season in a row. The argument seems to be like arguing about chickens or eggs coming first in regards to who deserves the blame for how bad his franchise is. Ray Farmer, the Browns general manager, seems to be the one getting fired. It's hard to argue with his draft picks not panning out, and big name free agent Dwayne Bowe, who promised 10 touchdown catches, only has five catches on the season. Pettine is hardly undeserving of blame, as he has fought to keep Johnny Manziel off the field despite being a first round pick, and his defense has never been able to contain the run. Cleveland is hoping that Pettine and a new GM will be able to communicate and work a little better together next season.
With the second overall pick the Browns select...
The Browns seem all but locked into the second overall pick in the draft. The Titans would have to win next week against the Colts while the Browns beat to the Steelers for that to change. It isn't the most unlikely thing, but we'll just assume things stay where they are. The Browns seem to be on the verge of firing their GM, so ties to Manziel may be gone unless Jimmy Haslam wants him to stay.
The quarterback position isn't off the table for Cleveland as Manziel hasn't been good enough to erase all doubt that he is the future, but this team is far from a quarterback away from competing. Josh Gordon is set to be reinstated next season, but he's hardly been reliable, and after him the supporting cast could use a tune up. The hometown cry for Joey Bosa could also be too much for Haslam to ignore as surely his jerseys would fly off the racks.The best choice will probably be to take the best player on the board regardless of position. The Browns need to add another solid foundation to the franchise, or at least a player who can get on the field.