About the only good news to come out of Jacksonville for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday was the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers did not play. That meant that Cincinnati would only lose one-half of a game in the standings with its loss to the Jaguars.
But the reality of the situation is that the Bengals’ uninspired play likely ended any playoff aspirations Cincinnati may have had. And, unless a lot of things change in a hurry, even getting to the .500 mark on the season is probably beyond the Bengals’ grasp as well.
Cincinnati let a perfect opportunity to move up in the standings slip through its fingers as the Baltimore Ravens saw a furious rally fall short against the Tennessee Titans en route to a 23-20 defeat.
In addition to the Steelers, the Browns had a bye this week, but the week off did not keep Cleveland out of the news. As if an 0-8 record is not enough, controversy just continues to follow the Browns.
Apparently, Browns’ coaches believe that general manager Sashi Brown intentionally sabotaged the trade deadline deal that would have sent Bengals’ backup quarterback A.J. McCarron to the Rock and Roll Capital of the World in exchange for second- and third-round picks.
Fortunately, Cincinnati does not have to deal with that kind of drama – because the Bengals have enough problems of their own. And all of those problems were magnified by a Jacksonville team that is hungry to get back to its glory days. The Jaguars were in the playoffs for four straight years, from 1996 to 1999, and made it back in 2005 and 2007.
But over the last six years, Jacksonville’s playoff hopes were gone by Thanksgiving. This year, the Jaguars came into the game tied with Tennessee atop the AFC South with a record of 4-3, and have recorded the most sacks in the NFL to date with 33, six better than runner-up Carolina. Jacksonville posted 10 sacks in a season-opening win against Houston, and had 10 sacks in Week 7 in a win over the Colts.
And while the Jaguars managed just two sacks against Cincinnati, they went out of the game with their playoffs hopes still very much alive. Jacksonville, which would own the No. 2 Wild Card spot if the season ended today, dominated the Bengals from start to finish en route to a 23-7 victory that was not nearly as close as the final score might indicate.
Baltimore, meanwhile, fell behind early to the Titans and trailed by a score of 16-6 at the half. The Ravens pulled to within 16-13 after a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to Javorius Allen midway through the fourth quarter, only to see Tennessee answer with a 9-play, 75-yard drive that consumed nearly five minutes of the clock and ended with an 11-yard scoring strike from quarterback Marcus Mariota to Eric Decker.
Flacco drove Baltimore 75 yards in just over three minutes, and his 1-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace accounted for the final margin. Justin Tucker’s onside kick was recovered by the Titans, and a couple of Mariota kneel downs ended the contest.
Flacco finished with 34 completions on 52 attempts for 261 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions, but running back Alex Collins was held to just 43 yards rushing on 13 carries, good for an average of only 3.3 yards per carry.
Here’s a look at the updated standings:
- Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2, 3-0 in division, 5-1 in AFC)
- Baltimore Ravens (4-5, 2-1 in division, 4-3 in AFC)
- Cincinnati Bengals (3-5, 1-2 in division, 3-4 in AFC)
- Cleveland Browns (0-8, 0-3 in division, 0-7 in AFC)