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State of AFC North: Ravens in for a long day; Steelers playoff hopes on the line

The Ravens are setup for another classic with the Patriots. The Steelers defense could be in for a long day against the Bills. Adam Jones called out Terrelle Pryor ahead of the Battle of Ohio on Sunday.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Week 14 is upon us, and the AFC North has some very important games as far as the playoffs are concerned. The Steelers and Ravens have been locked together for a few weeks now, but this week the Steelers have a chance to finally take the lead. Baltimore is traveling into New England to play the Patriots on Monday night. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, will be heading into Buffalo looking to avoid a trap game against the Bills. The Battle of Ohio turned into the Battle of the Basement this season. That didn’t stop Adam Jones from calling out Terrelle Pryor Sr. heading into their match up though.

The Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at the New England Patriots (10-2): Monday, December 12, 8:30 p.m. EST

Injury report: Yanda good to go

The Ravens are relatively healthy heading into another big game. A key component to how the Ravens have looked this season has been the health of their offensive line, and luckily for Baltimore it looks like they will have all their starters again this week as Marshal Yanda is likely to play.

Baltimore unveiled a more down field approach last week, so having Yanda, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, will help quite a bit as Joe Flacco will have to sit in the pocket a little longer as his receivers get down field. It would also help the Ravens’ running backs if the Ravens decided to run the ball and control the clock, but they have decided against that almost all season long.

Baltimore vs New England has huge playoff ramifications

For years, it seemed like whenever the Ravens and Patriots played it meant a lot. Whether it was playoff positioning on the line or an actual playoff game, these two teams have been a part of some of the greatest games in recent history.

This season is no different. The Ravens are fighting to keep control of their destiny with the Steelers nipping at their heels. The Patriots, who currently sit at 10-2 are looking to keep home field advantage over the Chiefs who improved to 10-3 on Thursday night.

Each team has a lot on the line, but the determining factor might be which Ravens team shows up. Are we going to see the Ravens who throttled the Dolphins last week, or the Ravens who have routinely struggled to put teams like the Jets, Giants and even the Browns away.

Even though they haven’t always lost when their offense hasn’t been going it’s usually been too close for comfort. The last team the Ravens want to let hang around is the Patriots, especially with their playoff lives on the line.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at the Buffalo Bills (6-6): Sunday, December 11, 1:00 p.m. EST

Pittsburgh’s defense in for a long day without Hargrave

Javon Hargrave has been a huge part of the Steelers’ front seven success. He routinely pulls double teams opening up opportunities for players like James Harrison on the outside and Ryan Shazier inside. However, Hargrave’s availability is in doubt for Sunday it could spell trouble for Pittsburgh.

LeSean McCoy and the Bills’ top ranked rushing attack is waiting for the Steelers in Buffalo. Pittsburgh allows teams to average 4.2 yards per carry which is tied for 17th in the league. Now that is with Hargrave. If he is out you can expect the Bills will have an easier time attacking the Steelers’ defense.

This all adding up to a long day for the Steelers defense. The Bills love to control time of possession, and if Pittsburgh can’t slow down their running game Buffalo will have no trouble doing just that. This means the Steelers offense will have to be extra efficient with fewer opportunities.

Whether the Steelers can avoid a potentially catastrophic upset could depend entirely on corralling the Bills’ running game.

The Steelers must overcome trap games to reach playoffs

The Steelers have struggled recently with finishing off easy opponents late in the season. When a good team takes on a bad team it can be considered a trap game. The thinking is players go into the game expecting to win so maybe they don’t play with the attention to detail they’d play a contender with. These games tend to get closer late in the season where bad teams are trying to play spoiler.

The Steelers have struggled in these games often playing down to the competition. This season they lost to the Dolphins, when they were 2-4, and the Eagles, who were a very soft undefeated team at the time.

This problem goes back to last season though. The Steelers had impressive wins over the Bengals and Broncos in Week 14 and 15. They were set up to stroll right into the playoffs with only the Browns and injury plagued Ravens left. Somehow the Steelers managed to struggle their way to a loss handed to them by the Ravens led by Ryan Mallett, of all people.

The Steelers are again set up with a cake schedule at the end, aside from the ever important Baltimore game. The Steelers history will keep many of their fans on their toes though as they know nothing is certain.

The Cleveland Browns (0-12) vs the Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1): Sunday, December 11, 1:00 p.m. EST

Cleveland healthy heading into Battle of Ohio

Cleveland hasn’t had too many things to be happy about in 2016, but their players’ health is impeccable at this time of year. The Bengals have five players listed as out headlined by A.J. Green. Other than that, players like George Iloka and and Clint Boling were full participants in practice on Friday.

While missing Green is pretty devastating, the Browns have been really good at allowing teams to do whatever they want on offense. The Browns’ defense has had trouble with miscommunication all season, and even with Hue Jackson’s insight into their offense in Week 7, the Bengals still put up 31 points.

It will be interesting to see the Bengals offense forced to run without Green for another week. Andy Dalton has really started to build some chemistry with Brandon LaFell and rookie Tyler Boyd.

Jones says Pryor is ‘just a guy to me’

For the second week in a row an opposing corner is tired of the Pryor hype. This week it is Jones. Back in Week 7 the Bengals held Pryor to two catches for 18 yards which was easily his worst game of the season.

Jones cited Pryor pushing off on defenders all the time to get open, and Pryor being featured because of a lack of weapons for the receivers success.

It is weird that Jones would react this way to Pryor. Especially mentioning the push offs. It could be the corner wants the refs to be on high alert for Pryor pushing off this week so the he won’t get away with it as much.

It could be Jones is trying to somehow pump up his defense to shutdown one of the Browns’ only weapons.

Either way Pryor did reply to the comments.

The last part is Spanish for 24 reasons. There is no doubt this will be a match up that will be watched closely on Sunday.