The Cincinnati Bengals have been flirting with the top spot in the AFC North division standings for most of the season.
Don’t look now, but they finally made it.
Cincinnati’s victory over the Denver Broncos, coupled with Baltimore’s loss to Green Bay and Cleveland’s loss to Las Vegas, left the Bengals atop the division standings, thanks to their victory over the Ravens earlier in the season.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, kept its Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde season going with a win over the Titans.
Cleveland falls at the gun
The Browns were not about to let a little thing like Covid-19 stand in their way, especially when they had someone like Nick Mullens waiting in the wings.
Mullens, a journeyman who was an undrafted free agent pickup of the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, got thrust into the limelight Monday evening with starting quarterback Baker Mayfield and his backup, Case Keenum, among a slew of Browns in covid protocols.
Despite missing its top two quarterbacks, its head coach, edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and top receiver Jarvis Landry, Cleveland very nearly pulled out the surprise victory.
The Browns, who are now in last place in the division with a record of 7-7, grabbed a 14-13 lead after Mullens engineered a 14-play, 80-yard drive that took 8:22 off the clock and ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Harrison Bryant with only 3:45 left to play.
But Las Vegas got the ball back with 1:50 remaining, and quarterback Derrick Carr drove the Raiders 51 yards to the Browns’ 30-yard-line before Daniel Carson ended it with a 48-yard field goal ended it at the gun.
Failed 2-point conversion sinks Ravens
Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley brought the Baltimore back from a 31-17 fourth-quarter deficit, and his 8-yard touchdown scamper with 42 seconds left seemed destined to send the game into overtime.
But Baltimore coach John Harbaugh opted to go for two points and the win, and an incomplete pass sent the Ravens to their third straight defeat.
Huntley had Baltimore on the verge of victory for the second straight week, and finished with 28 completions in 40 attempts for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Huntley also led the Ravens’ ground game with 13 carries for 73 yards and two scores.
Baltimore’s starting quarterback, Lamar Jackson, sat out for with an ankle injury, but Harbaugh is hopeful for a return to practice on Wednesday.
Steelers keep everyone guessing
Just when you were ready to give up on the Steelers, they did it again. This time, the victims were the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans. Pittsburgh spotted the Titans to a 13-3 halftime lead, then shut them out in the second half en route to a 19-13 win.
The Steelers improved to 7-6-1 on the strength of a defense that sacked Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill four times, forced five fumbles, three of which it recovered, and grabbed an interception on a tipped ball.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a quiet day, completing 16/25 passes for 148 yards and no scores. But he did not make any mistakes and scored his first rushing touchdown in three years to keep the Steelers’ slim playoff hopes alive.