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State of AFC North: Ravens set record; Steelers disappointed; changes coming for Browns

The Ravens set a record with the most players set on injured reserve in John Harbaugh's tenure. The Cleveland Browns could be saying goodbye to Johnny Manziel or hello to Chip Kelly. The Steelers might have to deal with one of the most frustrating playoff misses in recent team history.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals already have the AFC North crown and the Steelers are the only other AFC North team with a chance at making the playoffs. They can do that with a win against the Browns, and a Jets loss to the Bills. The Browns, however, are probably more interested watching the college football playoffs to get a better idea on who to draft. Then there are the Ravens who can't wait for this rare season of misery and injury to come to it's final conclusion.

Baltimore Ravens (5-10) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-4): Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST

Steve Smith puts retirement on hold
The speculation can finally stop as Steve Smith Sr. makes his return for the 2016 season official. The Ravens should still make acquiring a receiver a priority in the offseason. The obvious reason is because, outside of Kamar Aiken, no other receiver other than Smith was very productive this season. The Ravens will hopefully have 2015 rookie Breshad Perriman, but that brings us to the next point that Smith might not be the same player next season. Smith is 36 and will be 37 next season, and he's coming off an Achilles injury. Those injuries are hard for even players in their prime to return from much less a player in the back half of his career. Smith has made a career of overcoming the odds, but the Ravens shouldn't rely on that.

Ravens hit with injuries like no other season
Taking a look at the list of players on this list it is no wonder that the Ravens were so disappointing. The most important players are highlighted by Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Smith, and Terrell Suggs, but plenty of key role players are sprinkled throughout the list as well. There were some bright spots this season though. Some of the younger or fringe players on the roster got a lot of valuable playing time and thrived. The Ravens also will be picking in the top 10 of the draft, so next season they'll be returning most of the players lost to IR as well as a talented draft class.

Cleveland Browns (3-12) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6): Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST

As much as things change, they end up the same. Three years after Chip Kelly passed on the Browns for the Eagles, he is looking for a job again. The experiment failed in Philadelphia, but that was in a large part to Kelly essentially going mad with power and ridding his offense of talented players, and then replacing them with others he refused to use properly. It is hard to argue that Kelly's system didn't work initially, but when he got rid of his offense's fire power everything changed.

If the Browns were to bring him in they would be wise not to give him free reign over personnel decisions, and he claims he isn't looking for that. The Browns do have a quarterback on their roster that Kelly has been quoted as saying was "tailor made" for his offense in Johnny Manziel. That is probably the most attractive piece the Browns have going for them in the Kelly race, but there could be another NFL team that has an even more attractive landing spot. The Tennessee Titans are looking for a head coach and have one of Kelly's most productive quarterbacks from his college stint, Marcus Mariota, the same quarterback that he may or may not have tried to sell the farm to trade for. It seems unlikely that the Browns will be able to land Kelly even if they wanted him, but it's fun to think about how Kelly would run wild on that roster.

Johnny Manziel out for Sunday and possibly out of Cleveland
The weirdest ending might be coming to Manziel's season, and possibly his time with the team. Manziel reported he had concussion like symptoms Wednesday morning putting him into the concussion protocol. It comes at a weird time, in a weird way. The Browns have reportedly decided to keep Mike Pettine as their head coach, but that is all speculation. Although, with Ray Farmer likely to be let go, it is hard to imagine Pettine would want to keep Manziel around as he hasn't exactly been his biggest fan. It's hard to predict the future in Cleveland over the next few months, but the one thing we can predict is that it should be fun to watch.

Steelers hit by flu
The Steelers were without Ben Roethlisberger and Martavis Bryant who were sick with the flu, but Mike Tomlin still expects both players to start in a pivotal Week 17 matchup. Antwon Blake also missed practice due to his back injury, and the team plans on monitoring his condition to decide whether he will be available this week. All in all, the Steelers still appear to be in tip-top shape to end the season.

Steelers have to face reality of disappointing season
There is still a very good chance the Steelers can make the postseason, but without their fate in their own hands, it's hard to be excited about it. The Steelers will become the biggest Buffalo fans in the world as they need the Bills to defeat the Jets. If Pittsburgh misses the playoffs though, it will mark one of the most disappointing endings to a season. The team fought back from injuries and suspensions to reach 9-5 with a playoff berth all but assured, but they let it slip away last week with a huge upset loss to the Ravens. It will be hard to believe that the Steelers won't take care of the Browns, but that's why they play the game. Missing the playoffs at 10-6 would be the most frustrating end to a season for the Steelers. The only thing that would make it worse is watching the Texans or Colts have a home playoff game at 8-8 or 9-7.