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AFC North standings: The race for the crown tightens

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The Steelers hold off the Ravens for one more week despite losing in the last minute to the Raiders, and the Browns are technically alive for the division crown.

Cincinnati Bengals v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Every game involving the AFC North this week came down to a fourth quarter or overtime score. The Bengals kept pace with the rest of the division and hung around until late in the game, but joined the Ravens and Steelers in the “L” column.

Even though the Bengals made their game interesting, they were unable to seal the comeback against the Chargers. The Bengals, who were in first place not six weeks ago, now fall to last place. With the loss, the Chargers dropped the Bengals to 5-8, which is good enough to land the Bengals in the basement.

Without their top three players, the Bengals offense has been struggling with Jeff Driskel under center. Though Driskel is hardly to blame for the offensive struggles — given the poor supporting cast around him and vanilla play calling from the coaching staff — the fact of the matter is that the Bengals are not scoring enough points to win games.

On the one day where the defense actually held the opposing team in check, the Bengals only put 21 points on the scoreboard and failed to convert every fourth down and two point conversion they attempted.

The playoffs keep getting further and further out of grasp for Cincinnati with each loss. If the Bengals manage to turn everything around, the best situation they can hope for is an 8-8 season. While not mathematically eliminated, the Bengals cannot possibly hope to go to the playoffs if they keep playing the way they are playing.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Even though the Steelers have lost three in a row, including an ugly one to the Raiders in the last minute yesterday, they were able to hold on to first place in the division.

Derek Carr was handed the ball with 2:55 left in the game down 21-17 and was able to make the comeback against the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger was in-and-out due to injury, but Carr was able to string together a wonderful game, completing 73.5 percent of his passes while tossing for 322 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Even though Big Ben completed more than 85 percent of his passes, the Steelers’ lack of rushing offense without James Connor contributed to their demise. In the end, a blocked field goal sealed the win for the Raiders.

The Steelers dropped to 7-5-1, but still held on first place thanks to their tie with the Browns in Week 1.

Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson got the nod for this third straight start under center, but Patrick Mahomes put together another ho-hum 300-yard performance. The Ravens took the Chiefs to overtime, but were unable to stymie Mahomes’ arm, as the young signal caller threw for 377 yards on 35 completions and 53 attempts.

Jackson helped the Ravens rush for 198 yards, but his passing abilities weren’t a deciding factor in the overtime loss. The Chiefs opened up overtime with a field goal, but when the Ravens tried to answer, Jackson was injured on a sack. Robert Griffin III couldn’t lead the Ravens to victory, so the Ravens dropped to 7-6 after a 27-24 loss and remain in second place in the division.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns were the only team to win their game in Week 14 and were able to move up in the division. It wasn’t an easy victory, though.

The Browns led the Panthers late in the game, but only down by six points, Cam Newton had several opportunities for a comeback. But within the final three minutes, Browns stopped the Panthers on fourth down and intercepted Newton to keep their lead. The Browns would end up winning 26-20 behind solid performances from Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry.

With the Bengals loss, the 5-7-1 Browns are now in third place.

Updated AFC North standings:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-5-1 (3-2-1 in division, in conference)
  2. Baltimore Ravens: 7-6 (2-3 in division, 6-4 in conference)
  3. Cleveland Browns 5-7-1 (2-1-1 in division, 3-5-1 in conference)
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: 5-8 (1-3 in division, 3-6 in conference)

Updated AFC Playoff Picture:

  1. Chiefs (11-2), first in AFC West
  2. Patriots (9-4), first in AFC East
  3. Texans (9-4), first in AFC South
  4. Steelers (7-5-1), first in AFC North
  5. Chargers (10-3), wild card
  6. Ravens (7-6), wild card

Still in the hunt: