Did we just witness the future of the AFC North preview itself?
The two teams in the division that invested in a first-round quarterback both won in dominating fashion and each quarterback looked damn good at times in doing so. Meanwhile, at least one of other franchises in the division is looking at more questions than answers regarding the future.
Here’s how Week 12 went down for the division as well as the AFC playoff picture heading into Week 13.
No other team in the AFC North is in more trouble than the Bengals. After dropping to 5-5 last week with a road loss to the Ravens, they are now below .500 after losing to the Browns 35-20 for the first time in four years.
Not only did A.J. Green miss his third consecutive game, the Bengals were also down their starting left tackle Cordy Glenn and starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick from the opening kickoff. As the game progressed, they lost Glenn’s replacement at left tackle in Jake fisher with a back injury and even quarterback Andy Dalton injured his right thumb at the start of the third quarter.
Dalton was replaced by Jeff Driskel who came in and performed well considering the circumstances. The third-year quarterback threw for 155 yards and his first career touchdown on 17-29 passing. Despite Driskel’s best efforts, the Bengals defense looked miserably bad once again and their 28-7 lead at the half was too much for Cincinnati to overcome.
The playoffs aren’t even a reasonable hope anymore for Marvin Lewis’ squad. And with Dalton’s status going forward up in the air, this game may’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The Browns didn’t just come into the Bengals’ home field and won, they may’ve shifted the paradigm of the entire division. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t just look like the real deal, he is the real deal. He finished the game with 258 passing yards and four touchdowns while averaging just under 10 yards per throw. And the Bengals will become extremely familiar with him from now on.
Now that the Browns have a quarterback and got rid of the parasite known as Hue Jackson, they’ve set themselves up for obtainable success in the long-term. Along with Mayfield, rookie running back Nick Chubb properly introduced himself to the Bengals defense as well. Chubb ran for 84 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown, along with 44 yards receiving and an incredible touchdown reception that made the game 28-0 in the second quarter.
Make no mistake, the Browns have real talent and, for now, coaches who know how to utilize it. If this is a sign for things to come, they’ll ascend from the bottom of the AFC North hierarchy in no time.
A quarterback change seemed to be the magic trick for the Ravens, as they’re now 6-5 on the season and 2-0 with rookie Lamar Jackson under center. They made light work of the Raiders at home and cruised to a 34-17 victory.
Jackson’s box score numbers aren’t exactly pristine as he threw for just one touchdown and two interceptions with 178 yards through the air, but he displayed some downfield accuracy in a more balanced playbook compared to what they ran against the Bengals the week prior. Jackson also added 71 yards and a score on the ground for good measure.
The Ravens defense — or specifically edge rusher Matt Judon — sacked Raiders quarterback Derek Carr three times and fellow edge rusher Terrell Suggs recovered a Carr fumble for a 43-yard touchdown. The stingy Ravens defense limited Oakland’s offense to just 249 yards and stopped 10 of their 13 third down opportunities.
The Raiders may be one of the only teams playing worse than the Bengals at this moment, so it was no surprised how well the Ravens looked against them at home. Regardless, they are now 1.5 games behind the division leading...
The Steelers just can’t catch a break when playing at Mile High Stadium. Ever since Tebowmania crushed their Super Bowl dreams in the 2012 playoffs, they’re now 0-3 on the road against the Broncos after falling 24-17 on Sunday. Shame.
Part of Denver’s success was their ability to run the football so well. Rookie sensation Phillip Lindsay ran for 110 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Lindsay’s consistent work on the ground set up quarterback Case Keenum’s two red zone touchdowns that ultimate made the difference.
Keenum threw for just 197 yards on 15-28 passing, while Ben Roethlisberger on the other hand threw twice as many passes with a completion percentage of 73.2%. It was Roethlisberger’s costly second interception in the final minute in the Broncos’ end zone that put the nail in the coffin for the Steelers.
The Steelers won their previous six games before this week, so this could be just a small bump in the road for their playoff aspirations. More importantly, if the Broncos can finish the Steelers in a clutch situation, what are they capable of doing against the Bengals? We’ll get our answer this upcoming Sunday when they come to Cincinnati.
AFC North standings:
Steelers: 7-3-1 (3-1-1 in division, 4-3-1 in conference)
Ravens: 6-5 (2-3 in division, 6-3 in conference)
Bengals: 5-6 (1-3 in division, 3-4 in conference)
Browns: 4-6-1 (2-1-1 in division, 3-4-1 in conference)
AFC playoff standings:
1. Chiefs (record: 9-2), (conference record: 7-1)
2. Patriots (8-3), (6-2)
3. Texans (7-3), (5-2)
4. Steelers (7-3-1), (4-3-1)
5. Chargers (8-3), (5-2)
6. Ravens (6-5), (6-3)
In the hunt...