As expected when the schedule came out in April, Sunday’s Bengals-Steelers game at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12) means everything. The 8-5 Steelers need it to stay ahead of Baltimore in the AFC North race and the safest way into the playoffs. The 5-7-1 Bengals need it or else they’re out and the last thing they want is to get knocked out by the Steelers on their home turf a year after they handed them the bitterest loss in the Marvin Lewis Era.
No game proved how Le’Veon Bell can wreck the day of a defensive coordinator like last week against the Bill when the Pittsburgh back carried 38 times for 236 yards and three touchdowns while catching four receptions for 62 yards. He single-handedly outgained the entire Buffalo offense. The last two times the Bengals played against Bell they injured him to the point he was out the rest of the season. Assuming he makes it through this game unscathed, finding a way to slow his patient but explosive style will be the key defensively.
AFC North Bytes
When the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals take the field today, one of the less obvious but more intriguing angles in the game will be how Pittsburgh’s rookie defensive backs fare against Cincinnati’s rookie wide receivers. The Steelers have two starters in the secondary in their rookie seasons, while the Bengals have one, but use three.
When Justin Tucker was in eighth grade, he discovered the joy of watching a football sail through the uprights. The way it made him feel was a little like the way he felt when he made music.
The Cleveland Browns have signed WR Mario Alford to the active roster from the club’s practice squad. Alford is 5-8, 177 pounds and officially in his second NFL season out of West Virginia. Originally selected by Cincinnati in the seventh round of the 2015 draft, Alford has appeared in one game and recorded one catch for 15 yards. This season, he spent four weeks on the Jets’ practice squad and was signed to Cleveland’s practice squad on Dec. 13. He is a native of Greenville, Ga. and will wear No. 15.
The Miami Dolphins took advantage of four New York Jets turnovers to earn a 34-13 road win and strengthen their case for an AFC wild-card spot in the process. The Jets jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the game's first possession when Bryce Petty found Robby Anderson for a 40-yard score.
Derek Carr is expected to have his full allotment of weapons available against the Chargers. Despite Amari Cooper battling a shoulder injury and Michael Crabtree fighting through a finger injury, both Raiders receivers are expected to play, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Here are other injuries we're tracking early Sunday morning
If I'm an elite NFL player, I'm saying hell no to Orlando. The Pro Bowl is not in its natural Hawaii home—for the next three years! Dodgeball—seriously, dodgeball—is now one of the featured player events. And if you try too hard or go up for a pass the wrong way, your entire year might be compromised. I'm looking at you, Tyler Eifert.
Because NFL coaches are not the type to turn around and say 'You know what? That actually wasn't the best idea' we got another day of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll defending a fake punt late in Thursday's game that injured Jon Ryan and kicked the head coach-less Rams while they were down three scores.