It was another whirlwind week for teams within the AFC North, as the three clubs that played on Sunday engaged in last-minute decisions. And, as each week passes, the division race becomes clearer.
Here’s an update of what transpired within the division in Week 11:
The Browns had the week off with their bye hitting this week. They’re feeling pretty good about things, all things considered, as they grabbed a win over the Falcons last week. It was their first under interim coach, Gregg Williams.
Cleveland has officially moved on to the Baker Mayfield era, and he played particularly well against Atlanta. Rookie running back Nick Chubb is also becoming a viable threat for opposing offenses, so the boys at the Dawg Pound might finally be on to some form of a winning formula.
It’s highly-unlikely that the Browns make the postseason, though they are theoretically still alive. They continued to have a pulse from the result of the Cincinnati/Baltimore matchup, while three of their final seven games are against divisional opponents.
They head to Cincinnati next to meet the 5-5 Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Both the Ravens and the Bengals needed a win on Sunday, for differing reasons. A Cincinnati win would have all but pushed Baltimore out of playoff contention, while also strengthening their hold on the sixth seed. A Baltimore victory would salvage their season and push the Bengals for that final playoff spot.
Complicating matters for both teams were that many of their star players were out of the contest. Perennial Ravens-killer, A.J. Green missed his second game with a toe injury, while Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco was sidelined with a hip issue.
Rookie Lamar Jackson got the start for Ravens, and though he was given an elementary playbook for his first start, he made Cincinnati pay with his athleticism. Jackson rushed for 117 yards and threw for 150 in the Baltimore win.
This was the first game for the Bengals after Marvin Lewis fired Teryl Austin and took over the defensive coordinator duties. It was also the first contest with Hue Jackson back on the sidelines, but things looked eerily similar—especially on defense.
Cincinnati allowed their grasp on the sixth seed slip through their fingers, but the club does have a slate of winnable games ahead. They have two against the scrappy Browns, as well as contests against the Broncos, Raiders, Chargers and the finale against Pittsburgh.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about the actual contest that we didn’t say above. The win saves John Harbaugh’s job in the small chance it was even in jeopardy, and now both the Ravens and Bengals are jockeying for that final playoff spot.
What is up for further discussion is what the team does at quarterback and running back going forward. Reports have Joe Flacco being able to return to the lineup soon, so will the exciting rookie go back to the bench?
What will be interesting to see is how teams end up playing against Jackson now that an entire game’s worth of tape is out their for digestion. The Ravens’ offense this Sunday was almost solely run-pass option plays, limiting Jackson’s chance of making mistakes with his arm.
Undrafted rookie running back Gus Edwards also had a big day against the Bengals, making some wonder if he should be “the guy” in the backfield over Javorius Allen and Alex Collins. Edwards had 116 rushing yards, a 6.8 yards per carry average and a touchdown against the Bengals, proving that he may be more effective in that RPO system than the other backs.
The Steelers just keep getting it done. Pittsburgh lost to Jacksonville twice last season, including the playoffs, so they wanted revenge against the Jaguars in Week 11. It didn’t come easy, but they found redemption.
Jacksonville led most of the game and shut out the high-flying Steelers offense throughout the first half. Even so, the anemic Jaguars offense led by the embattled Blake Bortles weighed the team down and the defense allowed 14 points in the fourth quarter comeback win for the Steelers.
Trailing 16-13 with 22 seconds left on the clock, Ben Roethlisberger jolted into the end zone for the winning score. It was set up by two defensive penalties in the end zone by Jacksonville defenders.
Pittsburgh now has a two and a half game lead in the division over both Baltimore and Cincinnati with six games to play. They also have a win over each club (plus one loss to the Ravens), giving them a bit of a leg up in that regard as well.
Aside from a rematch with the Bengals in Week 17, Pittsburgh has games against New Orleans, New England and the Chargers to close out the year.
Steelers: 7-2-1 (3-1-1 in division, 4-2-1 in conference)
Bengals: 5-5 (1-2 in division, 3-3 in conference)
Ravens: 5-5 (2-3 in division, 5-3 in conference)
Browns: 3-6-1 (1-1-1 in division, 1-5-1 in conference)