The Battle for the AFC North is Heating Up!

Kate Arhar
Senior Sports Editor AFC North / NFC South

By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8 

While it’s snowing in the midwest, the battle for the AFC North is heating up!

The Week 12 Sunday Night Football Game turned into the Tuesday Night game which then became the Wednesday Late Afternoon game for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Thanks, Covid…

The Steelers top the division standings at 11-0, followed by the Cleveland Browns (yes, the Browns!) at 8-3. The Ravens, 6-5, may be the biggest disappointment so far this year while the Cincinnati Bengals at 2-8-1 still aren’t as far away as their record indicates.

Let’s take a look at what happened this week and who they have coming up on the schedule.

NY Giants- 19

Cincinnati Bengals – 17

With the knee injury to Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow ending his season last week, Brandon Allen was promoted from the practice squad into the starting position for their matchup against the New York football Giants. Allen completed 17 of 29 pass attempts for 136 yards, one touchdown, and one interception during Sunday’s 19-17 loss.

The Giants have their own woes at the QB position with Daniel Jones leaving the game with a hamstring injury and Colt McCoy stepping in to finish the game.

The Bengals head to Miami to face the Dolphins this week so it’s not going to get any easier for Allen. Plus, they still have the Cowboys, Steelers, Ravens, and Texans to face so, unfortunately, two wins may be all they get this year.

With that being said, they still have some really good players… especially safety Vonn Bell! I hate giving up on a season at any point but frankly, they’ll be better off losing out and getting a high draft pick so that when Burrow returns next year they’ve got more weapons and protection for him.

 

Cleveland Browns- 27 

Jacksonville Jaguars- 25

I know I’m biased when I say it shouldn’t have been this close but, frankly, it shouldn’t. And I can throw out all the cliches about ugly wins vs pretty wins or all that matters is the “W” but if the Browns are going to have any luck making it to the playoffs, they’re going to need to play a bit better against teams that are weaker “on paper.”

The Browns led 17-13 at the half and, with some luck and some great plays from running back Nick Chubb, they finished on top at the end. Jacksonville tried a couple two-point conversions that failed which ended up being the difference in this game.

QB’s Baker Mayfield and Mike Glennon were pretty even as far as stats go. Mayfield was 19/29 for 258 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs. Glennon went 20/35 for 235 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs. It was absolutely the run game that made the biggest difference for these teams today.

Jaguars RB James Robinson ground out a nice 128 yards but their next rusher had all of 6 yards. The Browns used the one-two punch of Chubb with 144 yards and RB Kareem Hunt with 62 to keep the defense on their heels, no knowing which way the ball was going. This has been the signature of the Browns offense since Chubb returned and will be what carries them through awful weather into the playoffs.

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry came up huge for the Browns as well with 143 yards and his first TD of the season. Jags WRs Collin Johnson (96 yards) and Keelan Cole (44) yards were big targets for Glennon.

Criticism is everywhere regarding Mayfield and some (ok, four) missed throws on short routes. While his play was far from perfect, he knows he needs to improve. But he also brings fire and attitude to this team and leads the way for them to get back to being proud of the way they play and for fans to be proud and say “That’s My QB.”  (Seriously though, he needs to stop tackling people or he’s going to get hurt! LOL)

The Browns head to Tennessee to face Derrick Henry and the Titans this week, leaving the Giants, Jets, Ravens and Steelers left to play. They should be able to stay over .500 for the first time since 2007 and are most definitely in the hunt for a playoff spot.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers 19

Baltimore Ravens14 

It was almost boring for the first 3 quarters at Heinz Field. Down 7-13 at the half, the Raven defense was doing it’s best to hold Pittsburgh to field goals but it was only a matter of time before QB Ben Roethlisberger hit WR JuJu Smith-Schuster for the TD. With QB Lamar Jackson and other key players out due to Covid, backup QB Robert Griffin III did his best to keep them in this game.

RG3 wasn’t as effective as he should have been and then he was injured early in the 4th quarter which brought QB Trace McSorley onto the field. The rookie out of Penn State was activated from the practice squad due to the Covid issues and it’s a good thing he was. This kid looked really good in the couple of series’s that he played completing 2/6 passes for 77 yards and his first NFL TD. He also rushed for 16 yards and got into a little tussle with a Steeler defender – definitely things we saw him do during his college career. I know Lamar Jackson will be back once he clears the protocols but he better keep an eye over his shoulder on MdcSorley!

The undefeated Steelers are now being talked about as the “Next Perfect Season Team.” Not sure if they’ll let that pressure get to them or not but their last few weeks aren’t a cake-walk. This week they host the Washington Football Team on Monday Night Football. I don’t hold out any hope that they’ll lose this one however, heading to Buffalo to face the Bills on December 13th? That game could decide the fate of their entire campaign for perfection.

The Ravens host the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, December 8th. then they face the Browns, Jaguars, Giants and Bengals. Theoretically they could win out for a record of 11-5. Practically? I see them finishing 8-8…. but I could be biased….

Talk AFC North football with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8 

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