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State of AFC North: Ravens claim back first place; Cleveland stays classy

The Ravens won and reclaimed their lead of the AFC North, but can they hold off the Steelers from taking it back? Terrelle Pryor refused to stoop to the level of Janoris Jenkins following the Browns’ loss to the Giants. And we gained some respect for him in doing so.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Week 12 is over for the AFC North. The Bengals playoff hopes are effectively dead but the race for the division is still super tight. The Steelers and Ravens each sit at 6-5 with the Ravens currently holding the tiebreaker having beaten the Steelers once this season. The Ravens defeated the Bengals who hoped to keep their season alive while simultaneously playing spoiler. Though, Baltimore unleashed a pretty frustrating loophole to seal the win. The Browns continued their losing ways, but Hue Jackson and Terrelle Pryor Sr. were very inspiring and classy afterward.

The Baltimore Ravens (6-5) beat the Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1): 19-14

Baltimore survives late surge by Cincinnati

It is frustrating to be a Bengals fan. After five seasons of going one-and-done in the playoffs, Sunday’s loss essentially closes the door shut on the season for the Bengals. What is worse is that the Ravens didn’t outplay the Bengals by that much.

The Ravens did something they haven’t done in five straight games against the Bengals and that’s win. They did it mostly behind the leg of Justin Tucker. Who, let’s face it, we all wish was a Bengal. Tucker made three field goals of over 50 yards (and also made another that Lewis tried to ice him with). That is insane. Meanwhile, Mike Nugent missed another extra point, though he did hit a couple of field goals, both of which were from distances less than 40 yards away.

The Ravens’ offense only scored one touchdown and it was on the opening drive. It was a great catch by Breshad Perriman who was well covered by Darqueze Dennard. Other than that, the Ravens were outgained by the Bengals offense. The Ravens only accumulated 16 first downs. The key, again, was the Ravens having a kicker who could kick field goals from 50+ yards away. The Ravens also stuck with the run and gave each of their backs 13 carries that totaled over 100 yards.

The Ravens defense also shut down two red zone attempts with strip sacks. Both came from the right side of the offensive line, one at the expense of Cedric Ogbuehi and one (the second of the two) with Eric Winston in at right tackle. The Ravens’ defense shut down the run and Jeremy Hill was held to under two yards per carry.

Joe Flacco didn’t light the world on fire. He was 25 of 36 for 234 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The fact that he hit nine different receivers was impressive. Still it will be interesting to see if this team can keep winning with an offense that is still struggling quite a bit.

Ravens sit atop AFC North

The Bengals couldn’t complete their role as spoilers on Sunday as the Ravens improved to 6-5. Baltimore now holds the playoff ticket in the AFC North. The question is can they hold onto that ticket and keep it out of Pittsburgh’s grasp?

In the Ravens’ remaining five games they only play one team under .500, the Bengals. They still have three road games against the Patriots, Steelers and Bengals left. They also play the much improved Dolphins next week and a 5-5 Eagles team with a defense and rookie quarterback who are playing pretty well. The Steelers game is obviously the most important, but the Ravens have very little room for error moving forward.

The Steelers, who also sit at 6-5, still have a game against the Browns to play (an automatic win). They also only have to travel to Buffalo and Cincinnati for the rest of the season. The Steelers face the Giants next week, which may determine how many losses the Ravens can afford. If the Steelers beat the Giants, the toughest remaining game, outside of the Ravens, is going to Buffalo to face the Bills.

The Bengals still face both these teams and could still player spoiler.

The Cleveland Browns (0-12) lost to the New York Giants (8-3): 13-27

Jackson gives passionate answers after loss

Hue Jackson uttered what every Browns 2017 hype video will start with following their loss to the Giants. If Browns hype videos exist...

“If you are going to get us, you better get us now because I am not feeling like this next year,” Jackson said. “There is no way. Unh-uh. No. I am a fighter, and we have a bunch of fighters in that room, and I do not lose many fights. I have never lost many fights. We are going to keep swinging. I have lost a lot right now, more than I have ever lost in my life fighting, but we are going to keep fighting and we have to fight the right fight, and that is what we have to do.”

Obviously this year’s Bengals may be missing Jackson’s fire. Still, it seems a bit optimistic that the Browns will be able to turn their fortunes around so quickly, considering they are 0-12. Although, stranger things have happened in the NFL. Unless the quarterback, and more importantly the protection, get figured out this offseason, it will be another long year for the Browns. The Browns have an incredibly late Week 13 bye week to think through their issues before playing the Bengals in Week 14.

Pryor takes high road after Jenkins’ post game jab

Apparently, players are back to being keyboard warriors after games. It is strange to see a player call out someone who played extremely well, but that’s what Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins did following New York’s win over the Browns, unprompted.

In case the Tweet disappears, it reads, “@TerrellePryor You a Sh*t Eater to me, u really sucks..#”.

Terrelle Pryor, the recipient of Jenkins’ trash talk, finished Sunday’s game with six catches for 131 yards. Jenkins also tweeted that Pryor took advantage of zone coverage, though, he’s deleted that Tweet. It is pretty easy to spot the hole in Jenkins’ logic. You can’t blame a guy for succeeding against the defense that your team chose to run. It wasn’t like Pryor chose the Giants’ defense for them. Still, Pryor didn’t stoop to Jenkins’ ridiculous level.

“You are a great corner. Solid defender! you played a solid game. God Bless !! Good luck rest of year,” Pryor responded.

Pryor won the post game smack talk, despite losing the game, and actually seems to be an admirable guy.

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

Green could be the receiving compliment Pittsburgh needs

The biggest issue this season for the Steelers has been trying to find someone opposite Antonio Brown to beat single coverage. Obviously, the Steelers hope the long term answer is currently suspended receiver Martavis Bryant, but that is if he can get on track off-the-field. Still, this season, no one has been able to fill his shoes. In fact, Le’Veon Bell has been far and away the second leading receiver with 57 catches for 437 yards and was suspended for the first three games. Sammie Coates has 425 yards, but he only has 20 catches on the season.

The Steelers can’t afford to rely on Bell to carry the running load as well as a lot of the receiving load. That is where Ladarius Green’s return comes in. So far the Steelers new tight end he has been limited in all three of his games. He only played 14 snaps against the Colts, but he has shown the ability the Steelers were hoping he’d provide. He recorded two catches for 66 yards on Thursday. Both of those catches were key to setting up scores. Something to watch as the playoff race is heating up is whether or not Green can live up to his hype.

But, when Brown scores three easy touchdowns, as he did on Thursday night, the Steelers hardly need other receiving threats.