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State of AFC North: Steelers offense overshadows poor defense; Cleveland still has faith

The Ravens are hoping the Bengals finally stumble against them after struggling against Cincinnati for the past three seasons. Pittsburgh managed to divert everyone’s attention from their defensive struggles. Despite their record, no one in Cleveland has lost faith in the process... or so they say.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers took sole possession of first place in the AFC North with their win against the Colts. The Ravens will look to take their lead back by ending their losing streak to the Bengals. Cleveland’s struggles shouldn’t shock anyone. But, the team still has the faith of its players and fans despite their record.

The Baltimore Ravens (5-5) vs the Cincinnati Bengals (3-6-1): Sunday, November 27, 1:00 p.m. EST

Final injury report includes starting cornerback

The Bengals will be missing a huge part of their offense without A.J. Green, but the Ravens have issues of their own on the injury report. Jimmy Smith didn’t practice all week dealing with a back injury.

Smith is listed as doubtful, but when a player doesn’t practice all week it means they probably won’t be out there. In his absence the Bengals might have an area of the Ravens defense to attack. Tavon Young, the Ravens’ rookie corner, will likely see more time in Smith’s absence, and he has had some growing pains.

Can the Ravens end the Bengals’ streak against them?

The Bengals have quietly won six straight games against the Ravens. This is a new season for this rivalry, and it is coming at the perfect time for the Ravens. After a disappointing game against the Bills, the Bengals are rediscovering themselves without Green and Giovanni Bernard.

The Key to the Ravens having a shot at ending the streak is committing to the run. That is something they haven’t been able to do in recent games. Last week against the Cowboys the Ravens ran the ball heavily the first drive that ended in a touchdown, but they avoided doing too much of it the rest of the game. The Ravens should focus on giving their backs ample opportunity to run behind Marshal Yanda and company against a Bengals defense that just gave up over 180 yards rushing to the Bills. It is doubtful that they’ll suddenly decide to do this considering their recent history.

The Cleveland Browns (0-11) vs the New York Giants (7-3): Sunday, November 27, 1:00 p.m. EST

Winless Browns keep faith

Past regimes wouldn’t have a shot at surviving a season like this. It is hard to pull out positives from a season when you don’t win a game. However, this isn’t past regimes. The Haslams went into the offseason knowing they’d have to put together a front office focused on building a consistent contender. The only way to do that would be to give them time.

The state of the Browns roster prior to this season wasn’t great. Sure they let some very talented players walk away in free agency, but some of those players would’ve been out of their prime by the time the rest of Cleveland’s roster caught up.

The past regime’s failures in the draft are displayed by this team’s record. When a coaching change results in a team quickly turning into a winner, it probably means the last general manager and coach did a good job at gathering talent. This wasn’t so with the Browns the last few years. They don’t have any of their first round picks still on the team which really says it all.

This team hasn’t won a game and are building from the ground up. Cleveland and many people outside of Cleveland understand the sad truth that if the Browns hope to become a winner they have to do it the long and hard way.

Haden’s average season

Joe Haden was once one of the most dominant corners in the NFL. A streak of injuries seemed to end that. His play dropped off significantly and even his own defensive coordinator says he’s only playing average.

Haden’s average play is magnified on a very poor defense that has regularly been burned this season. It is hard to tell if Haden is maybe trying to cover for other players or if he isn’t on the same page with the rest of his secondary. Still it will be interesting if Haden’s play has any impact on whether the team attempts to move him during the offseason or keep him as sort of a morale boost.

It will also be interesting to see just how bad Odell Beckham Jr. will burn Cleveland’s defense.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) beat the Indianapolis Colts (5-6): 28-7

The Steelers’ triplets lead them to victory

The Steelers knew they had one of the best offenses coming into the season, but no one knew just how much they’d have to rely on them. Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled most of the season, but on Thanksgiving the Steelers’ offense put on a show so big no one noticed how far the final score was from how close the game actually was.

Le’Veon Bell continued his dominance as he accumulated over 140 total yards including four catches and a touchdown. The four catches were good enough for second on the team.

Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown connected for three touchdowns. For some reason the Colts thought it’d be a good idea to leave Brown in one on one coverage. Note to the rest of the NFL: it doesn’t work. Bell routinely beat Vonte Davis, a pro bowl corner, for touchdowns, and he made it look easy.

After two games where the Steelers have faced two very poor defenses, Pittsburgh hopes it will carry this offensive momentum for the rest of the season. Still not all defenses are as bad as the Browns and Colts.

Pittsburgh’s defense gets stops at the right time

If a few plays for the Colts go slightly differently we could be talking about an entirely different game. It is important to note that the Colts were without Andrew Luck for this game. The key to why the Steelers won was because the Colts left so many points on the board.

It would probably shock most people to see the final score and then hear the Colts had more first downs than the Steelers, only 50 less yards and won the time of possession. How was the margin so wide? Missed opportunities and turnovers.

It started with the Colts missing a field goal that led to great field position for the Steelers to take an early 14 point lead. The more painful misses were on the goal line where the Steelers stopped the Colts on two separate occasions to force turnovers on downs. Then Scott Tolzien threw two interceptions on the Steelers side of the field to seal the game.

Now it is easy to say with Luck (both figuratively and literally) the Colts could have taken the lead and maybe it pulled it out against the Steelers, but the fact is Pittsburgh made the plays when they absolutely had to. What is also a fact is this Pittsburgh defense isn’t as fierce as it has been in the past, and teams do have the ability to move the ball on them easily. The Steelers have become a bend but don’t break defense.