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AFC North standings: Who is the team to beat?

By default, Pittsburgh and Baltimore are distancing themselves from the pack.

Wild Card Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers
The leaders in the clubhouse
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

All three of the Cincinnati Bengals’ AFC North opponents lost on Sunday, which would have left the door open for the Bengals to pull within one game of the leaders. But Cincinnati was not up to the task, falling to the Packers in overtime.

Pittsburgh fell 23-17 in overtime to the Chicago Bears, Baltimore got shelled by Jacksonville by a score of 44-7, Cleveland saw its comeback fall short by a 31-28 margin, and Cincinnati, despite scoring its first two offensive touchdowns of the 2017 season, dropped a heartbreaking 27-24 contest in Green Bay.

The Steelers dug their way out of a 17-7 halftime deficit to tie the score at 17 midway through the fourth quarter, only to see the Bears take the kickoff in overtime at their own 26 and drive for the winning score.

Chicago took advantage of a Pittsburgh turnover to take an early 7-0 lead on a three-yard run by Jordan Howard. Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a seven-yard touchdown strike with less than six minutes left in the second quarter, but the Bears reeled off 10 straight points before the half.

The Bears regained the lead after a 2-yard pass from Mike Glennon to Adam Shaheen, and added a Connor Barth 24-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. The Barth field goal was set up when Chicago blocked a potential Pittsburgh field goal and Marcus Cooper returned it 73 yards to the Steelers’ 1-yard line.

The Steelers pulled close midway through the third quarter when they turned a Ryan Shazier fumble recovery deep in Chicago territory into a one-yard Le’Veon Bell touchdown run. J.J. Wilcox intercepted Glennon at the Bears 21 and Chris Boswell tied it up with a 32-yard field goal.

Baltimore looked like anything but the strong defensive club that led the Ravens to victory over the first two weeks of the season, including the 20-0 shutout at Cincinnati. The Ravens were torched by Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles, who completed 20 of 31 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns. Marcedes Lewis had four receptions for 62 yards and three touchdowns, and rookie Leonard Fournette rushed for 60 yards and a score.

Jacksonville’s defense forced three turnovers and allowed Joe Flacco to complete only eight of 18 passes for 28 yards and two interceptions and a passer rating of 0.5.

Indianapolis, behind quarterback Jacoby Brissett, jumped out to a 28-7 lead against the Browns. Brissett threw for one touchdown and ran for two more in the first half, but Cleveland stormed back to make things interesting. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer completed 22 of 46 passes for two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Cincinnati scored three touchdowns in the first half, two by the offense on its first two trips into the red zone, and one by the defense. But, in the second half, the Bengals reverted to their old ways. Cincinnati abandoned the running game in the third quarter before finally putting the load on Joe Mixon’s back.

Mixon responded with a game-high 62 yards on 18 carried. But the Bengals were only able to generate one field goal in the second half as Andy Dalton continually overthrew the deep ball, leaving his receivers little of no chance to make a play.

Aaron Rodgers brought his troops back from a 21-7 deficit and engineered a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that evened the score at 24-24 with 17 seconds left and forced the extra period.

The Bengals had the ball first in overtime, but had to punt it away and Rodgers, on the strength of yet another defensive lapse by the Bengals, this time in the form of a 72-yard completion from Rodgers to Geronimo Allison, led to the winning score.

Here is a look at the updated division standings:

  1. Baltimore Ravens — 2-1 (2-0 in division, 1-0 in AFC)
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers — 2-1 (1-0 in division, 2-1 in AFC)
  3. Cincinnati Bengals — 0-3 (0-1 in division, 0-2 in AFC)
  4. Cleveland Browns — 0-3 (0-2 in division, 0-3 in AFC)



Which is the team to beat in the AFC North?

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  • 66%
    (174 votes)
  • 5%
    (14 votes)
  • 3%
    (9 votes)
  • 25%
    (66 votes)
263 votes total Vote Now