The 2017 season is already three-fourths of the way finished, and things are shaking out pretty much the way everyone expected.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the class of the division, and the Baltimore Ravens still have one of the better defenses in the league. The Cincinnati Bengals are a couple of plays away from being good, and the Cleveland Browns are terrible but getting better.
Pittsburgh came back from a 17-0 deficit to pull out a 23-20 victory on a last-second field goal by Bengal killer Chris Boswell.
The Ravens’ defense completely stymied the Detroit Lions in the first half of their game Sunday, and came away with an impressive 44-20 victory that kept them firmly locked into the AFC’s sixth playoff seed.
The Browns, meanwhile, celebrated the long-awaited return of Josh Gordon, but he was not quite enough as Cleveland slipped to 0-11 after a 19-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers (how many of you still have a hard time saying that?).
Joe Flacco had probably his best game of the season to lead Baltimore as he threw for 269 yards and completed 23 of 36 passes with two touchdowns and an overall rating of 105.0.
Mike Wallace had one of his better games of the year, as well, and finished with five receptions for 116 yards, including a 66-yard reception that was his longest of the season. Alex Collins contributed 75 yards on the ground on 15 carries and scored twice.
As efficient as the Ravens’ offense proved to be, Matthew Stafford kept the Lions close throughout most of the game. Stafford completed a team-record 20 straight passes at one point in the second half, and pulled Detroit to within a touchdown on two occasions. But Stafford left late with a hand injury, and Baltimore’s defense slammed the door shut.
The Ravens forced three turnovers, and each of them proved pivotal. Eric Weddle’s strip sack of Stafford in the second quarter led to a touchdown, a fourth-quarter interception set up Collins’ game-clinching touchdown run with four minutes left and Weddle had a 45-yard pick-six of backup quarterback Jake Rudock with just over two minutes remaining.
Cleveland got outplayed in every aspect of the game, but still managed to keep things close with the Chargers. The Browns pulled to within 19-10 on a 35-yard field goal by Zane Gonzalez early in the fourth quarter before mistakes once again proved to be their undoing.
Joey Bosa forced a fumble after a vicious sack of Cleveland quarterback DeShone Kizer deep in Chargers’ territory, and Denzel Perryman recovered the ensuing fumble with less than five minutes to play. An Adrian Phillips ended the Browns’ final drive.
Philip Rivers completed 31 of 43 passes for 344 yards, but the Chargers had all sorts of problems getting into the end zone against the overmatched Browns. Travis Coons kicked four field goals in helping to propel Los Angeles into a share of first place in the AFC West.
Kizer completed just 15 of his 32 passes for 202 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and also finished as Cleveland’s leading rusher with five carries for 46 yards.
The Browns have only four games remaining if they hope to avoid become only the NFL’s fifth winless team in history and only the second team to lose every game in a 16-game season.
Here’s a look at the updated standings:
- Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2, 4-0 in division, 7-1 in AFC)
- Baltimore Ravens (7-5, 2-1 in division, 5-3 in AFC)
- Cincinnati Bengals (5-7, 2-3 in division, 5-6 in AFC)
- Cleveland Browns (0-12, 0-4 in division, 0-10 in AFC)