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AFC North standings: Steelers distancing themselves from the pack

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After a huge win by Pittsburgh on Thursday night and a blowout loss by the Bengals, the divisional picture is beginning to clear up.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Cincinnati Bengals suffered an embarrassing loss on Sunday, they are still in the thick of the AFC playoff race. Their pace in the AFC North is slowing, as they are now one and a half games behind Pittsburgh, but there are some winnable contests ahead.

Next week is a big showdown between the Ravens and Bengals. A Cincinnati win could propel them back into a positive light within the conference playoff seeding, while also sending Baltimore to the dungeon to plan for 2019.

Anyway, here is a look at how Week 10 played out within the division and the standings for each team.

Cincinnati Bengals:

It was a rough Sunday in The Queen City, as the Bengals were housed by the New Orleans Saints. Some saw this one coming, but the effort level and statistical output was extremely disappointing.

The Saints charged to an early lead, but Cincinnati answered back to tie the game at 7-7. After another touchdown by New Orleans, the Bengals were on the move again, poised to go for it on a 4th-and-1. Unfortunately, a false start penalty by Matt Lengel was a major tide-turner.

Cincinnati subsequently punted and the Saints never looked back. New Orleans put up 28 points in the second quarter, and defeated the Bengals on the road, 51-14. Drew Brees was impeccable, only missing three passes on the day and accounting for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing).

The Bengals are now 5-4 and still in the playoff hunt, but their defense is dead last in the NFL and just set a record for relinquishing the most yards ever by an NFL defense over a four-game span. That led to Teryl Austin being fired, and Marvin Lewis will now call the defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Thursday night games are notoriously tough for the visiting team and this week was no exception. The stout Panthers traveled to Heinz Field and were caught in a Steelers avalanche.

Talk about a statement game by the Black and Yellow. Pittsburgh shellacked Carolina 52-21, scoring in a multitude of different ways. Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns, James Conner ran for one and the defense added another via a Vince Williams interception return.

The Steelers are feeling pretty good about themselves, as they are on a five-game win streak. Three of those five wins came at the expense of each one of their division rivals, so they are comfortably atop the division.

Also, interesting news surrounding the club: it appears as if Le’Veon Bell will not be rejoining Pittsburgh this season and will look to hit free agency next year. Even so, Pittsburgh hasn’t missed much of a beat with Conner in the backfield.

Baltimore Ravens:

The Ravens had the week off with their bye, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t been in the headlines. Quarterback Joe Flacco apparently injured his hip against the Steelers last week and has been seen on crutches this week.

There is talk that rookie Lamar Jackson is getting prepped for his first career NFL start, which may be just what the doctor ordered for the 4-5 Ravens. He has been used on gadget plays, but hasn’t really received any significant regular-season snaps as a true quarterback.

Of course, if Jackson were to start next week, it would be at home as Baltimore hosts the Bengals. And, if you’re new around these parts, Cincinnati hasn’t fared very well against rookie and/or mobile quarterbacks under Marvin Lewis.

So, next week should be interesting as both the Bengals and Ravens attempt to keep pace in the AFC North.

Cleveland Browns:

After falling prey to the mighty Chiefs last week, Cleveland was on a mission to redeem themselves. They were hungry to get interim coach Gregg Williams his first win and came through huge against a Jekyll-and-Hyde Falcons squad.

Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield had big days to help spring the Browns to a 28-16 in the Dawg Pound. Mayfield was 17-of-20 for 216 yards and three touchdowns, while Chubb had 176 yards, including a Browns record 92-yard touchdown.

Even though they have just three wins, four of Cleveland’s losses and the tie were one possession games. They are scrappier than their record would indicate and still have two games to go against the Bengals, as well as one against Baltimore within the division.

AFC North standings:

Steelers: 6-2-1 (3-1-1 in division, 4-1-1 in conference)

Bengals: 5-4 (1-1 in division, 3-2 in conference)

Ravens: 4-5 (1-3 in division, 4-3 in conference)

Browns: 3-5-1 (1-1-1 in division, 2-4-1 in conference)