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AFC North standings: Steelers beat Patriots; Bengals only team in division eliminated from playoffs

Every team in the division won this week, and in doing so eliminated the Bengals from playoff contention.

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

As one could predict, wins at the end of this season for the Cincinnati Bengals are too little, too late. Marvin Lewis’ team, which was depleted with injuries, played admirably against the struggling Oakland Raiders.

Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd and Geno Atkins reached various milestones in the game, as the Bengals beat the Raiders for the fourth time in the last five contests. Mixon had his third 100-yard rushing game of the year, while Boyd surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark with Atkins also notching three sacks in the win.

Jeff Driskel struggled for the second consecutive game though, throwing for just 130 yards and notching a 42% completion rate. Boyd leaving the game with a knee injury didn’t help, given the massive amount of injuries already hitting the pass-catcher groups, but Driskel was sailing passes and missing targets with frequency.

The Bengals had to have been pleased to get a win in their season finale at Paul Brown Stadium, even if it was in front of a very sparse crowd. At 6-8, Cincinnati spent the afternoon still having a shot at the postseason, but the win was more for pride as the rest of the weekend’s games concluded.

Cleveland Browns

Like it or not, the Baker Mayfield effect is taking the NFL by storm. With his two touchdown passes against the Denver Broncos on Saturday night, the rookie quarterback has breathed potential postseason life into the Browns.

He has 21 scores on the year, and just completed the tough task of getting a victory in Denver. Fellow rookie, Nick Chubb, also ran for 100 yards, while the Browns defense grabbed two interceptions and garnered two sacks of Case Keenum in the 17-16 win.

With both the loss on Saturday night and what transpired on Sunday, Denver has been eliminated from the playoffs. In Vance Joseph’s two seasons as the Broncos’ head coach, the team has not made the playoffs, nor have they achieved a winning record.

Meanwhile, as the Browns cling to thin hopes of making the playoffs, they are still trying to sort out what to do at head coach next season. Gregg Williams was supposedly a stopgap option after Hue Jackson was fired in the middle of the season, but he has since led the Browns to a 4-2 record. Might he be in play for the gig this offseason?

Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore hosted the Bucs on Sunday in a bit of a snoozer. The contest started with five consecutive punts by both teams, with the first touchdown coming at the end of the first quarter by Tampa Bay.

After flip-flopping on their commitment to Jameis Winston this year, the Buccaneers saw the former No. 1 overall pick familiarly struggle against the Ravens. He finished 13-of-25 for 157 yards and an interception as Tampa Bay lost to Baltimore, 20-12.

Lamar Jackson has taken over as the quarterback in Baltimore, but he didn’t fare all that much better than Winston on Sunday afternoon. He finished with just 131 passing yards, but did churn out 95 rushing yards.

The Ravens are 8-6 and are jockeying with the Steelers for the AFC North crown, while also trying to fend off the scrappy Browns. Baltimore ends the season against Cleveland, but face the Chargers in Week 16 first.

Pittsburgh Steelers

After three straight losses, questions were mounting for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Answers didn’t seem to be coming either with the New England Patriots coming to town. After all, the Steelers were 1-5 against Bill Belichick since 2011 and New England was coming off of a heartbreaking loss themselves.

In a game that was very un-Patriot-like, Tom Brady and Co. couldn’t capitalize on a number of Pittsburgh mistakes. Chris Boswell missed an easy field goal, while Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions.

Yet, the Steelers were able to get through those three major gaffes relatively unscathed, giving up just three points. The Pittsburgh defense was quite stout on the evening, led by T.J. Watt and Joe Haden.

Pittsburgh handled the Patriots at Heinz Field, 17-10. The win took heat off of Mike Tomlin, while also eliminating the Bengals from postseason contention.

Updated AFC North standings:

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